By Mike Koshmrl, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
October 25, 2013
The Snake River cutthroat trout fishery is as healthy as it has been in a decade.
Wyoming Game and Fish Department biologists and technicians completed electrofishing the Snake from near the Grand Teton National Park boundary to the Wilson Bridge last week. Their findings, from an angler’s standpoint, were great.
“It seemed like the mature age group — greater than 13 inches — and also the smaller sizes appear to be doing really well,” Game and Fish biologist Tracy Stephens said. “It’s pretty surprising, because usually as they get bigger, we see fewer.”
Game and Fish biologists stunned, netted, weighed, measured and released an average of 698 cutthroat trout per river mile during the count, which is higher than any year dating back to at least 2000. Over the years, the average number of cutthroat caught per mile is 517.
Native cutthroat also were longer and heavier than in recent years.
State sampling turned up on average 210 fish per mile that were more than 13 inches long, and those fish weighed an average of 1.43 pounds.
Two trout tipped the scales at over 5 pounds, Stephens said.
In total, counting all length classes, the fisheries biologists discovered 302 pounds of cutthroat per mile. That’s a 69 percent increase over the 179 pounds per mile found in 2011, the last time Game and Fish sampled the Snake from Teton park to Wilson.
Two other portions of the Snake — from Deadman’s Bar to Moose and from Wilson to Fish Creek — are routinely sampled. The state would have sampled numbers in Grand Teton waters this year, Stephens said, if not for the federal government shutdown.
Water levels at the time of the electrofishing were at winter levels of 280 cubic feet per second.
Snake River cutthroat in the 6- to 8.9-inch length class also numbered very high. The 328-per-mile sample of those small fish is 75 percent above the average of 187 usually caught and measured.
Cutthroat in the 9- to 12.9-inch length class numbered about average at 160 fish per river mile.
Game and Fish has not yet tallied its Snake River angler surveys to see if catch rates align with the high cutthroat numbers. Early indications are that fishing this season was good, Stephens said.
“The anecdotal reports that we got through the summer were that guides were really pleased with the number and the conditions of the fish,” she said.