Utah Wildlife Board approves new Bear Lake and Willard Bay fishing regulations and changes some hunting regulations

Emily Wright shows a lake trout caught and released at Bear Lake with a gillnet in 2019.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Wildlife Board approved a few changes to fishing regulations, and some lifetime hunting regulations during its September 30th public meeting.

A file photo of a fisherman bringing in his catch on Bear Lake near Cisco Beach this past summer.

Fishing recommendations for 2022 include changes to some fishing regulations for Bear Lake and Willard Bay.

The board removed the regulation of the two-fish limit at Bear Lake that requires all cutthroat trout or trout with cutthroat markings that have all fins intact to be immediately released. Anglers will now be able to harvest any two trout from Bear Lake, with or without fins attached.

The Division of Wildlife Resources is extending the fishing closure at the new Willard Bay Pond until Sept. 1, 2022 at 6 a.m. This closure will allow the newly stocked fish more time to grow and spawn. The daily fish limits at the Willard Bay Pond were also approved: five bluegill, one channel catfish and one largemouth bass. The new limits will go into effect once the pond is reopens to fishing.

The proposed Bear Lake rule change was developed in cooperation with Idaho Fish and Game and will help us stay consistent with their rules for their side of the lake in order to simplify things for anglers,” DWR Northern Region Aquatics Manager Chris Penne said. “This rule was initially implemented when biologists set out to increase the natural reproduction of Bear Lake cutthroat trout in the early 2000s.”

Biologists have reported those efforts have been successful, and DWR data as well as University of Idaho research data demonstrates that maintaining the same quality of fishing for cutthroat trout while allowing anglers the opportunity to harvest fish that have their fins intact.

Bryce Nielsen holds a lake trout caught in Bear Lake. The retired Utah Division of Wildlife Resource fisheries biologist still enjoys fishing.

Once-in-a-lifetime species recommendations 

A few changes were also approved for the once-in-a-lifetime hunts in Utah, including the following:

  • Combining the Zion Unit bighorn sheep hunts into one hunt due to decreased permit numbers.
  • Adjusting boundaries to create two new bison hunting units in the Book Cliffs.
DWR has made changes in the once in a lifetime hunts for 2022.

Conservation permits

The board also approved the 2021 audit and annual report of the conservation permits and the allocation of the 2022-2024 conservation permits. The conservation permits are offered to conservation and sportsmen’s groups who then auction them at banquets, fundraisers and other events.

Utah’s conservation groups provide 90% of the money raised from these permit sales toward conservation and research projects like habitat enhancement, wildlife transplants, aerial surveys and deer-survival studies. The remaining 10% of the proceeds are retained by the conservation groups to help cover administrative costs.

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