Bad News Burbot

Bad News Burbot

[img 1 right]Last October biologists in Wyoming found two juvenile burbot while collecting samples in Fontenelle Reservoir. Located in southwest Wyoming,

[img 1 right]Last October biologists in Wyoming found two juvenile burbot while collecting samples in Fontenelle Reservoir. Located in southwest Wyoming, Fontenelle is part of the upper Green River watershed that up until now had been thought free of the non-native fish. This is bad news: Burbot are voracious predators and the fact that the collected fish were juveniles likely indicates a self-sustaining population present in the upper Green River.

Although native to river drainages in Wyoming such as the Missouri River, burbot are exotic west of the Continental Divide in that state. In their native rivers, burbot feed on abundant populations of baitfish. The Green River, however, lacks the same forage-fish populations, so their target prey is often small trout.

"We are really concerned about our native fish over here, as well as our trout populations," says Craig Amadio, a fisheries biologist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Besides brown trout and rainbows, the upper Green River supports populations of the native (and threatened) Colorado River cutthroat trout that could be adversely affected by the burbot.

In the immediate future it is unlikely that anglers will see much impact on trout populations caused by burbot. "I don't think we'll see drastic changes in the fisheries during the next five to ten years," Amadio says. But in the long term, the burbot problem could become "pretty serious," he says.

Two of the most common methods of fish control-chemical application and mechanical extraction-have been ruled out due to the expense and scale of the problem. As an alternative, Wyoming Fish and Game is hoping anglers will do their part to help control burbot populations and have established a liberal creel limit of 25 burbot per day.

For fly anglers interested in helping control burbot in the Green River (as well as to keep a few of these tasty fish for the frying pan), Amadio says sinking lines and streamers should do the trick-although a cut-up shiner and a sinker would be more effective.