When that trout sips your size 18 Blue-Winged Olive or that walleye hits your crankbait, have you ever thought of where that fish came from, or how did it get there? While many fisheries in the Sheridan Game and Fish Region are wild fisheries, meaning the fish reproduce on their own, many of our fisheries would only be marginal or not exist at all if it wasn’t for Game and Fish hatcheries stocking fish. For the Sheridan Region, 90 different waters, from the top of the Bighorn Mountains to the Black Hills, were stocked with fish in 2016. Seven in-state Game and Fish hatcheries and three out of state facilities provided a grand total of 502,000 fish in the Sheridan Region!
Seven coldwater species were stocked including brook, brown, rainbow, splake (brook and lake trout hybrid), Snake River cutthroat, tiger trout (brown and brook hybrid), and Yellowstone cutthroat trout. Seven cool/warmwater species were stocked including bluegill, black crappie, channel catfish, largemouth bass, tiger muskie (muskie and northern pike hybrid), walleye, and yellow perch. In addition, gizzard shad and fathead minnows were stocked to provide forage in two waters.
While most fish were stocked with pick-ups or tandem axle trucks, 31 waters were stocked with a helicopter. These waters are located within the Cloud Peak Wilderness in the Bighorn Mountains and include lakes like Florence, Loomis, Bard, and the Seven Brothers.
Wyoming Game and Fish Department state hatcheries raise all of the trout stocked in Wyoming. Fish culturists at our 10 facilities hatch and raise all the trout needed for stocking in Wyoming. In addition, they produce surplus fish or eggs that are traded to other states for fish Wyoming hatcheries do not raise; such as walleye from North Dakota or channel catfish from Oklahoma.
When necessary, we will capture and transplant fish from one water to another water to start or supplement a fish population. In 2016, we collected bluegill and black crappie from Keyhole Reservoir, yellow perch and largemouth bass from Healy Reservoir, and transplanted them to the recently constructed Black Elk Pond near Newcastle.
Popular waters like Lake DeSmet and Keyhole Reservoir generally receive the most fish annually because of the high angler use and their large size. In 2016, Lake DeSmet was stocked with 81,000 rainbow trout (8 inches) and Keyhole Reservoir was stocked with 252,100 walleye (2-3 inches). The Sheridan Fish Management crew spends many hours sampling fish, analyzing data, and managing Northeast Wyoming’s waters. Once we determine if and when a body of water should be stocked, then we determine what species and how many fish should be stocked. Then the workload shifts to our Fish Culture Section. Personnel at our 10 fish hatcheries then spend numerous hours spawning, hatching, raising, and finally stocking these fish in our local waters.
So the next time you’re on your favorite water and you see that green truck stocking fish you know your fishing license dollars are at work providing fish for anglers.
Andrew Nikirk, Sheridan Region Fish Management Biologist.