Few things get Utah anglers more stirred up than changes to the fishing regulations. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources officials realized that several years ago and have made every effort to include those most affected by rules when proposing changes.
Fisheries folks also have been working to find ways to simplify regulations in recent years.
Their attention now is focused on regulations regarding bass fishing in Utah, again.
"We made some changes in 2001, but the regulations didn't make sense across the state," said Andrew Cushing, warmwater fishing coordinator for the DWR. "We have been meeting with various angling groups to talk about conceptually what they would like to see."
The result, if approved by the Utah Wildlife Board as proposed, would change the number of bass regulations to two standards. Bass fisheries shared with other states -- Lake Powell and Flaming Gorge -- will likely maintain current regulations until biologists can confer with the appropriate managers on changes.
Mandatory kill regulations on the Green River and at Grantsville Reservoir for bass also would remain in place.
The first regulation would be a standard six-fish limit with no size restrictions. This rule would apply to the majority of fisheries with largemouth and smallmouth bass.
Five reservoirs -- Jordanelle, Quail Creek, Sand Hollow, Gunlock and Huntington North -- also would carry a six-bass limit, but only one of the six kept fish could be longer than 12 inches.
"In the case of a place like Jordanelle, there are a few really large fish and a bunch of 12-inch fish," Cushing said. "If we can get anglers to take those smaller fish home, it will allow more fish to get into that high-quality range."
Even with the one-fish-over-12-inch allowance, biologists and angling groups do not expect many of the largest bass to be removed from the fisheries even if they acknowledge that it is the best thing for the fishery.
"The catch-and-release philosophy has been so burned into their heads that they just won't take any home regardless of the regulations," said Rodney Hurst, president of the Utah Bass Federation. "There are a few anglers not heavily involved in bass fishing who keep fish, and this makes it easier for them. We are in support of the proposed regulations and would be in favor of even more lenient rules."
Hurst and many other anglers predict, if the proposed changes are accepted, that the current state record for a smallmouth bass kept will quickly and, perhaps frequently, be replaced.
"It will only take one fish out of Jordanelle," Hurst said of breaking the existing 7-pound, 6-ounce record caught in 1996. "There are several that have been caught already that would have broken that record."
A series of Regional Wildlife Advisory Council meetings will be held across the state in May. Anglers will be able to hear the proposals and comment. State wildlife officials will consider responses from the meetings when they present the proposals formally at RAC meetings in September.
Anglers will be able to hear proposals regarding bass fishing in Utah at a series of Regional Wildlife Advisory Council meetings across the state in May. Here's the schedule:
May 11 » Southern region, Beaver High School, 195 E. Center St., Beaver, 7 p.m.
May 12 » Southeastern region, John Wesley Powell Museum, 1765 E. Main St., Green River, 6:30 p.m.
May 13 » Northeastern Region, Uintah Basin Applied Tech College, 450 N. 2000 West, Vernal, 6:30 p.m.
May 18 » Central region, Springville Civic Center, 50 S. Main St., Springville, 6:30 p.m.
May 19 » Northern region, Brigham City Community Center, 24 N. 300 West, Brigham City, 6 p.m.