Fishing at Panguitch Lake will close May 1

April 24, 2006 - Fishing at Panguitch Lake will close May 1

PANGUITCH - A treatment to remove Utah chubs and improve fishing at Panguitch Lake will begin May 1.

Panguitch Lake and its tributaries will be treated with rotenone beginning that day.

Until then, the daily bag and possession limit remains at eight trout of any species or size. The limits have been liberalized to allow anglers to harvest trout that will otherwise be lost when the treatment occurs.

Typically, fishing at Panguitch Lake is very good when the ice melts from the reservoir's surface. The ice is expected to melt during the week of April 17.

Once the treatment occurs on May 1, Panguitch Lake will be closed to fishing and the possession of fish until the lake is restocked, which is expected to happen during the first week of June 2006.

All of the lake's fish will be removed during the treatment, including trout. The lake will be restocked with trout as soon as possible after the treatment. The regulations listed in the 2006 Utah Fishing Proclamation will be in effect after the lake reopens to fishing.

Utah chubs affect fishery

Located southwest of Panguitch in the Dixie National Forest, Panguitch Lake is one of Utah's most popular fishing waters. Every year, thousands of anglers flock to its shores to try their luck at catching a limit of trout from its chilly, high mountain depths. Nearly 60 percent of the anglers that fish Panguitch Lake are from out of state, mostly from Nevada.

Utah chubs are native to the Great Basin area, but not to Panguitch Lake. Division of Wildlife Resources fisheries biologists believe chubs were illegally introduced to the lake in the late 1970s.

Utah chubs are very competitive fish and will displace trout in the lake over time. Today the trout population is less than five percent of the total fish in the lake. The remainder of the fish in the lake are Utah chubs.

"This is not the first time that this has happened," said Mike Ottenbacher, Southern Region aquatic manager for the DWR. "We had the same problem in the late 1980s and early 1990s, which resulted in a rotenone treatment of the lake."

Rotenone is a natural plant product that completely bio-degrades in the environment. Rotenone has been approved for aquatic use by the Environmental Protection Agency. At the concentrations used to kill fish, rotenone is not toxic to humans, other mammals or birds.

After the 1991 treatment, the lake was restocked, and it became a great fishery again. "Panguitch has always been a very productive lake when it comes to fish growth," Ottenbacher said. "Fish planted at seven or eight inches can grow to be nearly twice that size in a single growing season."

The restoration of Panguitch Lake will be conducted according to a plan developed by a citizen's committee. After the plan was developed, it was approved in a public meeting by the Southern Regional Advisory Council and was later endorsed by the Utah Wildlife Board.

Meeting the challenge

"This is a big challenge for us," said Doug Messerly, Southern Region supervisor for the DWR. "There are so many considerations that have to be taken into account in the management of this lake.

"First of all, because of the size of the lake, it will be costly," he said. "Nearly $250,000 has been budgeted for the purchase and application of the rotenone. It's expensive, and as you might imagine, requires special handling.

"Secondly, once the fish are gone, so is the fishing. The businesses around the lake are dependant on good fishing through the summer months. Without fish, they have a very difficult time financially. We feel like our plan addresses most of the concerns and, if all goes well, everyone will come out of this reaping the benefits of an excellent and sustainable fishery for some time to come."

Treating the lake

The plan calls for the rotenone treatment to take place beginning May 1. It will take about three days to apply the rotenone. The lake will not be restocked until the rotenone naturally dissipates, which is expected to take about 30 days. Then the lake will be restocked with eight- to 10-inch trout and reopened to fishing as soon as possible. A few trout of larger size may also be put back in the lake to increase the excitement level among anglers.

"We have to treat all the springs and tributaries to the lake as well to assure that we get all of the chubs out," Messerly said. "Normally, we would close the lake to fishing for several months, plant small fish and allow them to grow for the next season. In this case, we are confident that we can have a complete treatment and are going to plant catchable size (8- to 10-inch) trout in order to get great fishing back as quickly as possible."

For more information, call the DWR's Southern Region office at (435) 865-6100.