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Fisheries along the Middle Fork Popo Agie

September 20, 2018
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What do the high country fisheries hold for anglers?

Lander - In August, fisheries crews conducted surveys within the Middle Fork Popo Agie River basin in the Wind River Mountains.  Twelve lakes were within the Tayo, Deep, and Ice creek drainages in the Wind River Peak area, and one along the mainstem Middle Fork Popo Agie River.  All lakes can be accessed using the Stough Creek, Sheep Bridge, or Sweetwater trailheads in the Shoshone National Forest.  The purpose of these surveys was to evaluate sport fisheries, particularly those that are helicopter-stocked.  
 

Results show that the Tayo and Deep creek-drainage lakes near Wind River Peak currently offer some of the best golden trout fishing opportunities within the Wind River Mountains.  Game and Fish helicopter-stocks Upper Tayo, Lower Tayo, and Upper Deep Creek lakes with pure golden trout every two to four years.  

Naturally-reproducing golden trout/cutthroat trout hybrids occur in Coon, Middle Deep Creek, and Lower Deep Creek lakes.  Good numbers were captured in all six lakes, with bigger fish captured in Coon, Lower Tayo, Middle Deep Creek, and Lower Deep Creek lakes. 

Lakes surveyed in the lower Deep Creek drainage included Heart and Pinto lakes.  Both lakes contained high numbers of brook trout, with low numbers of golden trout/cutthroat trout hybrids also occurring in Heart Lake.  The golden trout/cutthroat trout hybrids in Heart Lake likely drifted downstream from the Deep Creek lakes, which are approximately one mile upstream.  Fortunately, a waterfall on Deep Creek between Heart and Lower Deep Creek lakes prevents brook trout from swimming upstream and colonizing the Deep Creek lakes.

Squirrel Lake flows into the mainstream Middle Fork Popo Agie River between Tayo and Bills parks, and is helicopter-stocked with Arctic grayling every four years.  Arctic graying up to 13.5 inches were captured during the last sampling event in 2012.  Unfortunately, no fish were captured during 2018 sampling.  It is unknown why no fish were captured.  Squirrel Lake was last stocked in 2014, and it is possible that the Arctic grayling fry did not survive the stocking event.  Another possibility is that fish currently exist but were not captured in the gill net.  Arctic grayling fry (1.1 inches long) were stocked again in 2018, and will hopefully create a quality sport fishery within a couple of years.

All other surveyed lakes were in the Ice Creek drainage and included Cliff, Boot, Jug, and Chief lakes.  With the exception of Cliff Lake (which is fishless), all lakes contained wild brook trout populations.

*See Table below for more details.

Lake Species Length Range (inches)
Coon golden/cutthroat hybrids 14.0 – 17.0
Upper Tayo golden trout 7.0 – 11.2
Lower Tayo golden trout 4.7 – 16.1
Upper Deep Creek golden trout 3.6 – 12.0
Middle Deep Creek golden/cutthroat hybrids 6.1 – 17.0
Lower Deep Creek golden/cutthroat hybrids 8.5 – 17.0
Cliff fishless  
Boot brook trout 6.0 – 14.0
Jug brook trout 6.0 – 11.0*
Chief brook trout 6.0 – 11.0*
Hart brook trout 6.0 – 10.0*
  golden/cutthroat hybrids 13.0 – 15.0*
Pinto brook trout 6.0 – 13.0
Squirrel No fish captured**  

* Lengths are approximate.  Because of limited time at these lakes, fish were captured by brief angling surveys and exact lengths were not recorded.
 
** Squirrel Lake is helicopter-stocked with Arctic Grayling every four years, including 2018.  Fish stocked in 2018 were too small to be captured during 2018 sampling.

- WGFD -



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