The smallmouth bass population on the Flaming Gorge took a huge hit several years ago with the illegal introduction of burnout into the fishery. These fish are native to many parts of the west, but not to the Green River drainage. The burbot are an aggressive feeder and tend to outcompete bass and trout for food, as well as gobble up their young, taking a big toll on their population. Although bass and rainbow trout are technically non-natives to the region, their popularity with fishermen and ability to coexist in this ecosystem created the need to manage this new invasive species.
The Wyoming Game and Fish and Utah Department of Wildlife Resources have begun efforts over the last few years to replenish the bass population in the Gorge and eliminate as many burbot as possible. Fishing regulations on the Wyoming side of the Gorge prohibit keeping smallmouth and releasing burbot, and during the winter events such as the Burbot Bash Ice Fishing derby have helped to reduce burbot numbers and simultaneously boost bass and trout numbers.
Another practice that has been a boon to the bass population in Wyoming has been the capture via hook and line of fish in the Canyon region on the Utah side of the Gorge and relocation to the Wyoming side. This event is organized by the Game and Fish agencies from both states and relies on volunteers showing up to catch as many bass as possible to be moved via trucks. I was able to participate in this event this year and the results were pretty incredible.
Even with the challenging afternoon winds, we were able to beat the old record of 1,430 by collecting and relocating a total of 1,445 bass in about 7-hours. The average size was 8.27 inches and 0.25 lbs (goal less than 12-inches). There was a total of 58 participants in 20 boats, from multiple groups including (but not limited to) the Wyoming Bass Federation and Nation, Utah Bass Federation and Nation, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, US Forest Service, WGFD, UDWR, Dedicated Hunters, and volunteer anglers that just wanted to help support the fishery.