June 14, 2022 |

To minimize the waste of perfectly good and tasty brown, rainbow and tiger trout from a planned kill-off of fish in Saratoga Lake this fall, the state wildlife department will enact an emergency measure removing creel limits at the popular fishing spot this summer.

Fisheries Biologist Chance Kirkeeng announced the plan to lift the creel limit at last week’s meeting in Saratoga where Wyoming Game and Fish officials discussed how they will address the illegal stocking of yellow perch in the lake.

Photo of Saratoga Lake courtesy WGFD.

Kirkeeng added that the boat launch should remain below water through the summer allowing anglers to access to deeper water as the lake slowly evaporates. Inflows to the lake were closed in February.

All creel limits and other state regulations are still in place at the lake.

Allen Osterlund, head of fisheries for Game and Fish, told Bigfoot 99 after the meeting that the emergency measure requires the authorization of the governor. The request for the emergency regulation could reach the governor’s desk as early as next week. Osterlund said he expected the governor would sign it shortly after receiving it.

Game and Fish will treat Saratoga Lake with rotenone in the third week of September. Suspending the creel limit by early July would give anglers nearly three full months of unlimited fishing on the lake.

During the meeting, Game and Fish officials stressed that the rotenone treatment is a last resort to maintain a trout fishery in a unique man-made lake.

Bobby Compton, also with the Laramie Region office of the wildlife agency, said the short-term pain of killing off the fish would produce long-term benefits. Responding to a question about the desire for diverse fishing experiences, Compton said he was sympathetic but Saratoga Lake is limited by its size and plant life of what species it can support.

During the presentation, fisheries specialists used slides, graphs and other historical data to show how yellow perch have overtaken other bodies of water in Wyoming, such as Healy Lake near Sheridan. Officials again stressed the concern that the yellow perch could escape the lake and jeopardize blue ribbon trout and walleye fisheries down the length of the North Platte River system.

Local fishing guide Michael Patterson attended the meeting. Patterson guided on the river for nearly 30 years before retiring two years ago. Known to many by his nickname, “Hack,” Patterson also spent many years stocking the prize fish for Saratoga’s annual ice fishing derby. Patterson said he agreed that the yellow perch could escape the lake and reach the river.

Patterson also noted tiger trout and splake are caught in the river downstream of the lake. He added that the rotenone treatment this fall may be successful, but it may not prevent yellow perch from being discovered in Saratoga Lake in the future. Noting that the treatment will result in the cancellation of next January’s ice fishing derby, Patterson talked about the importance of Saratoga Lake to the town from a financial point of view.

The lake was drained in 1999 to eliminate a parasite that had been discovered in it. The ice fishing derby was cancelled then, too.

Game and Fish officials at the meeting stressed that they understand the economic importance of the lake to Saratoga, and plan have the lake refilled and ready for fishing by April of next year.

Rotenone is a non-toxic plant based chemical. It does not poison the fish. Instead, it prevents gilled animals from taking in oxygen. The fish will suffocate. Many will float to the top. Kirkeeng explained what will happen a few days after the treatment.

Kirkeeng and the other fishery managers said they would restock the lake with catchable fish for next summer. They added that the fish should grow quickly and the lake will return to premium trout fishery in one to two years.

Wyoming Game and Fish has established a page on their website devoted to providing the most up-to-date information on the management of the lake. This will include information about when the creel limit is lifted, which likely will happen by the end of June. Until then, all fishing regulations are in effect as normal.

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