March 16, 2022 |

Wyoming Game and Fish is looking for answers. Who stocked Saratoga Lake illegally with non-native yellow perch? And what is the best way to deal with what is being called a “devastating” discovery. Yellow perch can destroy a trout fishery. Illegal stocking is the only way the species found their way into the lake, officials told Bigfoot 99, and the agency is requesting tips from the public and offering a reward.

Alan Osterlund, the chief of fisheries for the state game agency, said the perch were discovered last year during a routine check of the lake. Their presence threatens more than just the trout in the lake. They pose a threat to species downstream, including walleye in Seminole and the blue-ribbon trout in Grey Reef. Along the way, the yellow perch will compete for the same habitat, or “groceries,” as native species, Osterlund said.

Pictured above: Saratoga Lake campground. Photo courtesy of the Town of Saratoga.

The direct pathway connection between Saratoga Lake and the Platte River system makes the discovery of the yellow perch alarming to fishery and habitat specialists like Osterlund. Saratoga Lake is managed as a trout fishery and the department does not stock any cool-warm-water fish there, including yellow perch.

The favored habitat of yellow perch are weedy, warm water lakes. They spawn in the spring when water temperatures are in the 45° to 50°F range. So the perch that were illegally stocked into Saratoga Lake will likely not do well, said Osterlund.

Osterlund said if you catch a yellow perch; keep it, no matter the size. The limit is 50. Game and Fish wants to remove as many perch from Saratoga Lake as possible. State biologists keep close tabs on what species are in the system. The agency reports that yellow perch had not been identified anywhere in the North Platte upstream of Glendo Reservoir. We asked Osterlund why someone would introduce the species into Saratoga Lake.

Yellow perch. Photo courtesy WGFD.

If left unchecked, yellow perch can take over a lake and destroy a trout fishery. That happened at Black Hills Power and Light Reservoir near Newcastle. Game and Fish no longer manages abandoned the reservoir as a managed trout fishery after yellow perch were stocked illegally.

The agency is moving quickly to prevent a similar occurrence at Saratoga Lake and to protect the downstream system fisheries. The department has cut off the fresh water flow to the lake to prevent yellow perch from moving into the North Platte drainage. The agency is assessing other possible responses to preserve Saratoga Lake as a trout fishery.

To submit information contact the Stop Poaching Hotline at 1-877-WGFD-TIP. A reward is available and your identity will remain confidential. Illegal fish stockings are a high misdemeanor punishable with up to one year in jail and fines up to $10,000.

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