SALT LAKE CITY — Anglers will be able to fish with corn at eight lakes and reservoirs in Utah starting Jan. 1, 2017.
At their Sept. 29 meeting, members of the Utah Wildlife Board – a panel of seven citizens appointed by the governor – approved a Division of Wildlife Resources recommendation to start a two-year pilot study focused on the use of corn as bait. At the end of the study, DWR biologists and conservation officers will decide if anglers should be allowed to continue using corn for bait.
Before the board’s vote, Utah was the only state in the West that did not allow corn to be used for bait.
In addition to the study, the board implemented several changes for Utah’s 2017 and 2018 fishing seasons. These include a tweak to the smallmouth bass limit at Jordanelle Reservoir, opening tributaries at Utah Lake to fishing year-round, and requiring anglers to keep and kill any walleye they catch at Echo Reservoir. All of the changes go into effect Jan. 1, 2017.
These changes and others approved by the board can be read in the 2017 Utah Fishing Guidebook. The free guidebook should be available online by mid-November.
Corn as bait
Earlier this year, DWR biologists posted a fishing survey at the agency’s website, asking if anglers would support the use of corn as legal bait in Utah. A total of 3,210 people answered the question and 70 percent answered “yes” to the question about corn.
The corn study starts Jan. 1 and involves eight lakes and reservoirs. The eight waters that have been selected have kokanee salmon or common carp in them.
“Corn is an effective bait for both species,” Randy Oplinger, cold water sport fisheries coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, said.
In 2017 and 2018, corn can be used as bait in the following locations:
- Cutler Reservoir
- Deer Creek Reservoir
- Electric Lake
- Fish Lake
- Flaming Gorge Reservoir
- Lake Powell
- Stateline Reservoir
- Utah Lake
Corn is a cheap and easy bait to use, Oplinger said.
“I think that’s one of the main reasons anglers wanted a chance to use it as bait in Utah,” he said.
But doesn’t corn harm fish that ingest it?
“That’s something many anglers have believed for years,” Oplinger said. “Study after study has shown that isn’t the case. Corn doesn’t harm fish.”
Some of the state’s anglers are concerned about two things, though: will allowing the use of corn lead to an increase in chumming – tossing bait in the water to attract fish – and littering?
Both activities are illegal in Utah and will remain illegal during the pilot study.
During the two-year study, biologists will work closely with DWR conservation officers to determine if allowing the use of corn has led to any negative results.
“If we find that it has,” Oplinger said, “we can recommend not allowing corn as bait in 2019.”
Smallmouth bass at Jordanelle
Division of Wildlife Resources biologists brought several other recommendations to the board. Among those approved is a change that will allow anglers to keep larger smallmouth bass at Jordanelle Reservoir.
Currently, fishermen can keep up to six smallmouth bass at the reservoir southeast of Park City, but only one of them can be longer than 12 inches.
In 2017, the six smallmouth bass limit will remain, but the 12-inch size restriction will be gone.
“We want to encourage anglers to keep smallmouth, even fish that are over 12 inches,” Oplinger said.
Oplinger said Jordanelle’s smallmouth bass population has gotten so large that the fish are small in size – 11 inches or less in length.
“Right now, trying to keep larger smallmouth in the reservoir isn’t the answer to growing bigger fish. Removing smallmouth from the reservoir, even the larger ones, is the answer.”
Removing smallmouth bass will provide more food for the remaining fish and allow them to grow larger in size. To help speed that process along, biologists stocked two predators into Jordanelle this year.
“Over the past three months, we’ve placed tiger muskies and wipers into the reservoir,” Oplinger said. The predators should prey heavily on the smaller smallmouth, leaving more food for the remaining smallmouth to eat and grow to a larger size.
Eliminating the 12-inch size restriction at Jordanelle was favored by 61 percent of the 3,705 anglers who responded to a survey about the change. Eleven percent of the 3,705 anglers were opposed to the change and the rest did not have a preference.
Utah Lake tributaries open to fishing year-round
Board members also approved some recommendations brought by Sportsman for Fish and Wildlife, a Utah sportsman’s group. Opening tributaries at Utah Lake to fishing year-round was one of the group’s proposals; it will give anglers a better chance to catch a northern pike.
In the past, the tributaries were closed from March 1 to the first Saturday in May. The closure was designed to protect walleye that spawn in the tributaries in early spring. However, northern pike also spawn in the tributaries at the same time.
Northern pike were placed in Utah Lake illegally, Oplinger said, and pose a threat to other fish in the lake including the endangered June sucker, which is not found anywhere else in the world.
In 2017, the tributaries will be open to fishing year-round, however, anglers must release any walleye they catch.
In addition, the board approved a recommendation from biologists requiring anglers to keep and kill any northern pike caught in the tributaries. A catch-and-kill regulation for northern pike is already in place for the lake itself.
Walleye in Echo must be kept and killed
The board also approved a Sportsman for Fish and Wildlife recommendation requiring anglers to keep and kill any walleye caught at Echo Reservoir in northern Utah.
Walleye were placed in Echo illegally and biologists are concerned about the species’ effect on other fish in the reservoir.