MOORCROFT - When most anglers think of fishing in Wyoming the talk usually turns to trout, but Wyoming also has excellent fishing for other species as well.
One of the most diverse fisheries in the state is Keyhole Reservoir, a 9,000-acre body of water situated in Keyhole State Park in the northeast portion of the state between Gillette and Moorcroft.
“Keyhole is home to ten game species including white crappie, black crappie, green sunfish, bluegill, smallmouth bass, northern pike, walleye, perch, channel catfish and freshwater drum,” said Game and Fish Department Fisheries Biologist Andrew Nikirk. “The species that folks go after primarily are the walleye. We stock 200,000 to 250,000 walleye fingerlings in the reservoir annually to help supplement natural reproduction.”
Nikirk said that supplemental walleye stocking is needed because in low water years Keyhole has poor natural reproduction success. “Walleye generally like the windswept rocky shorelines for good spawning habitat at Keyhole, so when water levels are low, there’s not a lot of spawning habitat available,” Nikirk said. “The yearly stocking helps to ensure that we don’t miss a year class of walleye.”
The fishery in Keyhole reservoir is at an all time high for most species right now thanks to increasing water levels that have occurred every year since 2007.
Nikirk said the increased water levels have resulted in increased productivity for both forage and game fish species. “We have very large year classes of walleye right now and populations of crappie, smallmouth bass and northern pike are through the roof,” he said. “The 17- to 19-inch walleye are a particularly strong year class.”
Nikirk added that the Game and Fish is also seeing a lot of walleyes in the 13- to 15-inch range and also in the 20-to 22-inch range. “You can pretty much equate that to water levels increasing,” he said. “In fact we’re seeing an increase in just about everything. The perch came on, emerald shiners, spot-tail shiners, some of the main forage base here at Keyhole are also doing well.”
Keyhole also has the distinction of being the only reservoir in the state with northern pike and is logically the home of Wyoming’s state record: a 27-pound four-ounce fish caught in October 2004. Nikirk said northerns are doing so well the Game and Fish has stopped stocking the species because natural reproduction has dramatically increased.
“We’re seeing pike everywhere,” Nikirk said “We used to stock 150,000 pike annually but that stocking hasn’t been needed for the past two years.”
As with any fishery that has large numbers of primarily piscivorous (fish eating) species, it is important there is a good forage base. Keyhole has good population of emerald and spot-tail shiners and the Game and Fish has also been stocking gizzard shad to provide an additional forage for the walleye and northern pike. In recent years the Game and Fish has been trapping gizzard shad in Glendo Reservoir and transplanting them into Keyhole. With gizzard shad, a few fish can go a long way as each female produces hundreds of thousands of eggs each year.
As with any fishery, projections for coming years are tied to water levels. With the good precipitation of recent years and with 2014 being a good water year, Game and Fish expects the reservoir will continue to provide excellent angling opportunities for the foreseeable future.
(Contact: Al Langston (307) 777-4540)