Saturday, May 12, 2012

Panguitch Lake Gill Net Survey

Panguitch Lake
I know I have been posting a lot lately about gill netting results across Southern Utah, but I have another one for you today that I know many have been looking forward to!  Panguitch Lake is a very popular fishery in Utah, both for fishermen and the local economy from those visitors that the lakes draws in every summer.  A few years ago this lake was in a very bad way as the Utah chub (an invasive non-game species) had nearly taken over the entire ecosystem of this large mountain reservoir.  What trout you could catch were usually small and in poor condition.  In the past few years this lake has made a very impressive comeback!

The Utah DWR treated the reservoir to remove the chubs, which killed all fish species in the lake.  The following year trout were re-introduced, but this time not only rainbow trout as previous to the treatment, but also tiger trout (a hybrid cross between a brook trout and a brown trout) and cutthroat trout.  These two species are known to be more of a predator fish, and grow to impressive sizes as well.  In fact, in 2009 the Utah state record tiger trout was pulled from Panguitch Lake, although this record has since been bested by 2 other tigers caught in other Utah waters.

Fears were again raised that Panguitch Lake was again in trouble as a malfunctioning head-gate on the dam caused all the stored water in the lake to release over the summer of 2011, dropping the lake to it's low, natural lake level.  Many feared that most of the population would winter kill due to the low lake levels.  Ice fishing was very tough this winter on the lake, which is not normal for the past few year.

Now, the head-gate has been repaired, and the lake is again storing water.  With the ice off, Mike Hadley, Southern Region Aquatics Biologist for the Utah DWR was able to get out on the lake this past week and gives us this very promising report of Panguitch Lake:

Division of Wildlife Resources fish biologist Mike Hadley shows off a 23-inch, 4.5-lb cutthroat trout caught and released at Panguitch Lake during the annual gill net survey on May 8, 2012.
On May 8, 2012, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources conducted a gill net survey at Panguitch Lake in order to monitor the status of the trout fishery. We found rainbow trout ranging from 9 to 18 inches. Cutthroat trout from 10 to 20 inches were abundant and the number of tiger trout observed was the highest since they were introduced in 2006. We even caught a few cutthroat and tiger trout above the 22-inch slot limit. Trout were in good condition. The number of fish caught indicated that there were no appreciable losses due to low water after the malfunction of the dam in fall 2011. Once again, no Utah chubs were observed in the annual survey.

Division of Wildlife Resources personnel measure the length and weight of trout collected at Panguitch Lake during the annual gill net survey on May 8, 2012.

Tiger numbers at an all-time high, good size ranges on the other fish, and no Utah chubs found...I can't wait to hit Panguitch Lake this year!  If you find yourself there please let us know how you do!

Panguitch Lake is just a short 20 minute drive south of the town of Panguitch, on Utah highway 143.  Near the lake you will find public boat ramps, a few lodges/resorts, restaurants, the Panguitch Lake General Store, Forest Service Campgrounds, ATV trails, boat rentals, and much more!  This is a great area to spend a weekend with your family, or maybe just your fishing buddies!  Either way, there's something for everyone in the Panguitch Lake area.  If you find yourself in Garfield County for any of the many festivals and events this summer, be sure to put Panguitch Lake on your list.

Again, a big thanks to Mike Hadley for another great report.  I want to thank him and the Utah DWR for contributing information to our site.

Be sure to check out our "Bragging Board" for a look at some trophy fish posted there that have been pulled from Panguitch Lake.