The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources made emergency changes to fishing limits on Tuesday, allowing fishers to catch and keep more fish at 10 waterbodies in the state, including the Blacksmith Fork River.
The new limits for the Blacksmith Fork River affect the area between the Nibley diversion downstream to the confluence with the Logan River.
According to the DWR’s 2020 Fishing Guidebook, the previous limit was four trout, with a bonus of four brown trout, so eight in total. Also, only one fish caught could be longer than 15 inches.
As of Tuesday, since the changes went into effect immediately, the daily limit for the Blacksmith Fork River is eight trout regardless of size and kind.
The new limits, which will remain in effect until Oct. 31, were made in anticipation of low water levels that may occur as a result of most of Utah being in extreme drought conditions.
Jim DeRito, the fisheries restoration project manager at Trout Unlimited, said he was not surprised by the new limits and said they make sense.
Trout Unlimited is a nonprofit that focuses on preserving coldwater fishes, such as trout and salmon.
DeRito said because Utah went into the current water year with record-low soil moisture, he expected the river to have low water levels.
“We’re going to have a really tough water year. We already are,” he said. “So obviously the forecast for stream runoff is pretty low this year.”
DeRito said he anticipates several sections of the river to go dry this year.
“That’s going to kill a lot of fish, so why not allow the opportunity for anglers to harvest some of those fish before that happens?” he said.
DeRito said there was a reason the Blacksmith Fork River was included in the new regulations. He said based on an estimate that the DWR put out last year, there were over 1,000 trout per mile in the part of the river that the emergency regulation is affecting.
“It’s the only river in the state where they’re changing this regulation to encourage harvest,” he said. “It’s a recognition that there’s a lot of fish. There’s a lot of trout in this part of the Blacksmith Fork.”
The other nine bodies being affected by the new limits are all reservoirs.
He said these temporary emergency changes are good, but they won’t solve some of the bigger problems that the Blacksmith Fork River is facing.
When the water levels are low, DeRito said fish can’t travel through the diversions and canals. Another effect of low water levels on fish is that the water becomes warmer, which can lead to low oxygen, poor growth and disease.
DeRito said he’s hoping Trout Unlimited can work with water rights holders to put more water in the areas of the river and to make water passages more “fish friendly.”
In addition to the Blacksmith Fork River, the other nine bodies affected by the new limits are Forsyth Reservoir, Gunlock Reservoir, Koosharem Reservoir, Lower Enterprise Reservoir, Otter Creek Reservoir, Tropic Reservoir, Upper Enterprise Reservoir, Wide Hollow Reservoir, and Yuba Reservoir.