Walleye numbers in Pathfinder Reservoir, one of central Wyoming’s largest bodies of water, have grown four-fold, according to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. And at the same time, trout numbers are down by half.
Game and Fish hopes to even that balance with a proposed regulation increasing the number of walleye an angler can keep from six to 12, but the idea has walleye fishermen fighting back.
“We as a group just want more time so Game and Fish can evaluate it a little more,” said Brian Woodward, a member of North Platte Walleyes Unlimited. “We ask them to do a regional creel survey to find the interest locally. We also want a population survey on Pathfinder.”
There has to be a way to manage both trout and walleye populations, said Trent Tatum, a fly fishing guide and co-owner of North Platte Lodge in Alcova.
“Sometimes we have to trust Game and Fish to make decisions for both,” he said. “But there is a happy medium that can be met. Both parties can be appeased, and they need to be. What is that going to be? I don’t know.”
The concern is about both the number of trout being caught in Pathfinder and also the numbers of trophy brown and rainbow trout caught in what is called the Miracle Mile, a section of the North Platte River upstream from Pathfinder, said Al Conder, Casper’s Game and Fish regional fisheries supervisor.
“As we see a decline in the trout fishery in Pathfinder we see a decline in the Miracle Mile trout fishery,” Conder said. “We’re seeing more walleye caught in our electrofishing in the Miracle Mile, which doesn’t bode real well for the little trout in the Miracle Mile.”
The proposed change is one of a handful going out to the public for comment from April 19 to June 3. Game and Fish reevaluates its fisheries regulations every few years, giving biologists an opportunity to adjust for changes in fisheries and anglers a chance to offer their opinions.
The walleye change in Pathfinder will likely be the most widely debated of the various proposals, said David Zafft, Fisheries Management Coordinator for Game and Fish. But other changes may also be of interest to regional or statewide anglers.