SALT LAKE CITY — Beginning Oct. 14, 2019, anglers must immediately release any bluegill they catch while fishing at Steinaker Reservoir and Pelican Lake. The bluegill is a popular sportfish that’s relatively small and easy to catch.
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Director Mike Fowlks issued the emergency change to the 2019 Utah Fishing Guidebook to protect bluegill populations while both waterbodies are being restored for fishing.
Steinaker Reservoir was drained for dam repairs in 2018, and Pelican Lake was treated with rotenone in October 2018. To date, around 700 adult bluegill have been restocked into Steinaker Reservoir and about 2,700 adult bluegill have been restocked into Pelican Lake. For more information about the restoration work happening at Pelican Lake, visit the DWR website.
“Given this species' schooling nature and how much anglers love to harvest panfish, we feel the need to protect these young fish until more bluegill have grown to a catchable size and are able to reproduce,” DWR regional sportfish biologist Natalie Boren said.
If you do happen to catch a bluegill at either of these waterbodies, here are some best practices for releasing the fish:
Handle the fish with care: do not drop it on the ground or on the ice (if you are ice fishing).
Gently remove the hook with a set of needle-nose pliers or forceps.
If you deep hook a bluegill, do not attempt to remove the hook — rather cut the line near the mouth of the fish and return it to the water. Typically, the stomach acid will dissolve the hook and pass it through the system.
If you feel a picture is necessary, take one quickly and then return the fish to the water and handle it with care.
In the springtime, bluegill will build beds, which the males will protect during the spawning season. Anglers should not catch males off the spawning beds. If you do catch a bluegill off the spawning bed, return it to the water quickly, as it could only be a matter of moments before a predator eats the young offspring or disturbs the nest.
“We don't want to discourage anglers from going to Pelican or Steinaker to fish,” Boren said. “Just please be aware that we are trying to grow trophy bluegill at Pelican and quality bluegill at Steinaker, and this requires your help, along with some patience and knowledge about each fishery.”
The change will remain in effect until Dec. 31, 2020. All the other rules in the Utah Fishing Guidebook regarding these waterbodies have not changed and remain in effect.
Photos courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1hXQudXqJ8IF-9OGXnG49vKxoQVcmCKpL
Media contact (do not publish): Natalie Boren at 435-219-2644 and Faith Heaton Jolley at 385-266-2640