Low water levels, rising temperatures present challenges for Utah fishing this summer

Local News

Courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

(ABC4) – The exceptional drought conditions currently impacting the state are not just affecting the human residents, the ichthyoid creatures of Utah are also feeling the heat.

That’s fish, in layman’s terms.

In May, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources announced an increase of fishing limits in 10 different water bodies due to the low water levels caused by the state’s drought status. However, just because anglers will be able to bring in more fish, doesn’t necessarily mean they will easily be reeling them in.

As temperatures climb during the summer months, fish are impacted by the decreasing water levels and the rising warmth of their watery homes, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Sportfish Coordinator Randy Oplinger explains to ABC4. A fish that is out of its optimal water temperature slows down its activity levels, metabolism, and becomes less likely to take the bait of an angler.

The optimal water temperature can vary from species to species, but in general, most fish are going to feed less and swim deeper in an effort to cool down.

“As the summer goes along, and it gets hotter and hotter, you are going to see more and more species, more and more water bodies, get kind of beyond that optimal temperature and you’ll see the fish slow down,” Oplinger says.

Lakes and reservoirs are not the only bodies of water where fish behave differently. Oplinger describes scenarios where fish can become stranded in isolated pools of water in riverbeds and streambeds. Fish trapped in these pools, with no way to swim through to deeper water, are subject to very uncomfortable temperatures, making them even less likely to take a nibble.

Of course, fishing enthusiasts are still bound to head out in search of a big catch. Oplinger gives several tips on what anglers should consider when braving the heat this summer. The first one involves the most Instagrammable aspect of fishing, the photograph.

“We’re telling people to try to avoid handling fish as much as possible during these hot months so maybe skip the pictures of the fish,” Oplinger says. “Because when you take a picture, you’re holding the fish out of the water longer and it’s hard on the fish in these conditions.”

While reeling in a catch can be worth what is sometimes a fantastic struggle, Oplinger is asking Utah anglers to hold off on fighting the fish too much and to just reel any catch in as quickly as possible. Once the fish is out, anglers should also try to release the catch as soon as possible, if they choose not to keep it. It is also important to be mindful of where the fish is going.

“In a lake, don’t put them in really shallow water, set them aside, and let them go in a little deeper area. Those are all good things for the fish,” he says.

Oplinger’s advice applies to all of Utah as the entire landscape is currently in a major drought. The challenges anglers will face will only be more severe the further south they go in search of their catches.

“In the northern part of the state, you’re talking to record temperatures and low water conditions so we’re kind of saying the same thing statewide, even though things might be exasperated the worst out of the southern part of the state,” he states.

Still, the saying goes that the worst day of fishing is better than the best day of work. Even if fishing feels like even more work than before this year.

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