Fishing and watercraft proposed regulation changes

The comment period for fishing and watercraft regulations is now open. Anglers are encouraged to read and submit comments about two proposed fishing and watercraft regulation proposals in the Sheridan Region. 

In response to declining fish populations on the North Tongue River in the Bighorn National Forest, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is proposing to extend the catch-and-release/artificial flies and lures-only area. The current regulation requires anglers to catch-and-release and use artificial flies and lures only in the North Tongue drainage upstream from the mouth of Bull Creek in Sheridan County. The proposed new regulation would extend the special regulation area 4.6 miles downstream to begin instead at U.S. Forest Service Road 15, or Burgess Road, in Sheridan County.

Over the past 10 years, the Sheridan Region fisheries management team has documented a significant reduction in the number of fish per mile and pounds of fish per mile during surveys of the North Tongue River. Among three sampling stations on the river downstream of the current catch-and-release area, data collected since 2010 shows an 86 percent drop in the number of fish per mile that were greater than six inches in length. During the same time, data shows a 32 percent decline in fish per mile that were greater than six inches at the three stations within the current catch-and-release section of the river.

Between June and September 2018, Sheridan Region personnel conducted a creel survey of anglers on the North Tongue. Of the 774 anglers who responded to the survey, 80 percent were in favor of extending the catch-and-release area, 12 percent had no objection to extending the area and eight percent wanted no change.

Reasons for the decline are currently unknown, but may include natural variations in populations over time, environmental factors such as disease and variations in water flow and high angler use. Although the fish health laboratory in Laramie discovered the Myxobolus cerebralis parasite, or whirling disease in fish from the North Tongue drainage in 2020, it is unclear if the presence of this parasite is the cause of the population decline. Further sampling and investigation of this issue will continue in 2021.

The proposed regulations also include a provision to allow non-motorized watercraft on Ranchester City Reservoir. Currently, all watercraft are prohibited on the reservoir.

Comments about the proposed regulations can be submitted in writing or online. Comments must be received by 5 p.m. on June 4, 2021. All comments will be reviewed by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission prior to their July meeting when the proposals will be voted upon.

If approved by the Commission, the new regulations would take effect on Jan. 1, 2022.


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