GILLETTE, Wyo. — Creel and possession limits have been suspended at Saratoga Lake ahead of a fall plan to chemically eradicate all fish there in response to a growing yellow perch infestation, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department announced Wednesday.
In September 2022, Game and Fish plans to treat Saratoga Lake with rotenone, which will wipe out all fish species in the southern Wyoming waterbody.
The treatment is a necessary response to prevent the spread of yellow perch, a Wyoming game fish that has been illegally introduced to Saratoga Reservoir and has been having a negative impact on the trout fishery and native fish communities in the North Platte drainage, per a June 29 release.
Alan Osterland, chief of fisheries for Game and Fish, said that the suspension of creel limits will allow licensed anglers to harvest and possess high numbers of edible fish such as perch, walleye, and multiple species of trout this summer before the rotenone treatment.
“It’s unfortunate that an illegal introduction of yellow perch necessitates a rotenone treatment, but we want the public resource — the fish — to be utilized in the best way possible,” Osterland said in the release.
Anglers harvesting fish at Saratoga must still possess a valid fishing license and comply with legal angling methods and tackle, per Game and Fish.
Yellow perch were first identified in Saratoga in 2021; their presence is believed to be the result of illegal stocking, according to a Game and Fish web page dedicated to the issue.
Saratoga, per the web page, is managed as a trout fishery, and no cool- or warm-water fish species are stocked by Game and Fish.
Their presence in Saratoga prompted an immediate response to cut off water flow to the lake ahead of concerns that the species could escape Saratoga and migrate into the upper reaches of the North Platte River drainage, per Game and Fish.
Yellow perch are likely to disperse downstream of Saratoga into other nearby waterways like Seminoe, Pathfinder, Alcova, and Gray Reef Reservoirs, Game and Fish says, as well as into the Sweetwater and Medicine Bow Rivers.
The species could do irreparable damage to the sport fisheries and native fish species, Game and Fish states.