GREEN RIVER - Wyoming’s small mouth bass populations in Flaming Gorge Reservoir are getting a little attention this summer through an important research project that hopefully will increase their populations.
Fisheries biologists with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, along with assistance from Cowboy Bass, Wyoming Bass Federation, Utah Bass Nation, and other volunteers, recently tagged 359 smallmouth bass in the Jarvies Canyon area of the Gorge. The bass were transplanted in an effort to supplement bass numbers and spawning on the northern end of Flaming Gorge Reservoir. The tags will be used to evaluate whether the bass stay in Wyoming or return to their point of capture in Utah.
Smallmouths in the 8 to 13 inch class were caught and fitted with green FLOY tags (also called "anchor", “spaghetti", or “dart” tags). The FLOY tags are inserted into the fish below the dorsal fin and lock into the bones below the fin. Anglers who catch any bass with a FLOY tag are asked to record the location of where it was caught, the 4-digit FLOY tag number, and, if possible, record the length of the fish if they can do it quickly as to not kill the fish. Releasing the fish is the desired outcome. Smallmouths are long-lived and the may be caught several times over their life span, providing biologists with valuable information each time a tagged fish is captured.
“The fish did great on the move with no mortality observed once they were placed in their new home,” Green River fisheries biologist Joe Skorupski said. “Of the 359 fish tagged, 26 stayed in the Jarvies Canyon area to be used as a control population for the study.”
According to fisheries biologists Utah has a robust population of smallmouth bass. Green River fisheries supervisor Robert Keith says the plan was to collect bass from the over-populated Utah population and transplant them north to the Wyoming side of the Gorge where smallmouth populations have been declining for five or six years due to burbot predation.
“The bass were caught by volunteer anglers with hook and line and handed off to the Wyoming and Utah biologists for data collection and tagging,” Keith said. “We chose male and females that were in pre-spawn (egg-laying) mode that would be ready to spawn soon and would most likely stay and spawn where we relocated them.”
Keith said the Game and Fish is hoping to supplement the suppressed Wyoming populations. in response to the decimation of smallmouth bass populations on the Wyoming side of Flaming Gorge. “Those populations have been depressed due to the illegal introduction and proliferation of burbot,” Keith said.
Keith said the tagging study will allow biologists to see if the fish just go right back to where they were originally caught or stay in the area they were transplanted into.
“It they stay put, spawn, this transplant effort will be worth repeating in the future,” Keith said.
“This is an excellent way for to become actively involved in the management of bass in the Gorge,” Skorupski said. “Thinking about the next step and evaluating the long-term success of the transplant, it will be crucial to receive fish information when the tagged bass are captured by anglers. This information will allow us to evaluate the transplanted smallmouth bass in the Gorge.”
(Contact: Lucy Wold (307) 875-3223)