SHERIDAN — Fishing is an outdoor activity in which enthusiasts can partake all year. From fly fishing to ice fishing to lounging around with a hook and bobber, the sport is one of Wyoming’s most popular.
Fish anglers in the Equality State can land many different kinds of fish that are native to the Rocky Mountain Region and some that aren’t. While plenty of trout, both natural and stocked, eye lures of all shapes and sizes, fish like walleye, northern pike and crappies make their way to Sheridan from elsewhere — via fish trading.
Wyoming houses 10 fish hatcheries, scattered all over the state. The one closest to Sheridan resides in Story. The other fish hatcheries include Auburn Fish Hatchery (Jackson), Boulder Rearing Station, Clark Fork Fish Hatchery (Cody), Daniel Hatchery, Dubois Hatchery, Dan Spears Rearing Station (Casper), Ten Sleep Hatchery, Wigwam Rearing Station (Ten Sleep) and Tillett Springs Rearing Station (Lovell).
All ten of those locations help to raise fish species that include Arctic grayling, Bear River cutthroat trout, Colorado River cutthroat trout, Snake River cutthroat trout, Yellowstone cutthroat trout, brook trout, lake trout, golden trout, tiger trout, Eagle Lake rainbow trout, fall rainbow trout and splake.
Fishermen in the Sheridan area can also reel in record-setting fish such as walleye and largemouth bass that don’t naturally reside in Wyoming. Those fish find their way to ponds and lakes in the vicinity from states all over the country.
North Dakota is Wyoming’s largest trade partner. Wyoming receives the majority of its largemouth bass, northern pike, shovelnose sturgeon and walleye from the Peace Garden State. Wyoming also does quite a bit of trading with Arkansas — receiving black crappie, white crappie and channel catfish — along with receiving blue gill, green sunfish hybrids, saugers and tiger muskies from Colorado, Nebraska and Oklahoma.
When exchanging fish, it’s excess or surplus fish that get shipped. Wyoming will overproduce eggs and send those, or fingerlings, to a state, receiving that state’s excess fish in return.
The local fisheries utilize three tandem diesel trucks equipped with 1,250-gallon tanks to transport fish. A few smaller trucks with smaller tanks are also at the fisheries’ disposal.
In some instances, these trades don’t involve fish trading hands at the same time. A few years ago, a neighboring state had a fish kill at one of its hatcheries and was in desperate need of some cold-water fish. Wyoming lent a helping hand in that occurrence and will likely receive similar treatment if an analogous circumstance inflicts Wyoming.
“These folks in the other states with the other hatcheries, they all want to do the best for the resource — the best for their public, as well,” said Guy Campbell, Wyoming Game and Fish fish culture supervisor. “They’re not geared as to what they can get. They are looking at the whole fish and wildlife resources in general, and what they can do to help each other.
“That’s kind of what it comes down to. If someone is in need, we help them. We might be in need down the road, and they help us.”
Wyoming does its due diligence when bringing in fish from outside states. Local biologists research non-native fish to ensure they will not alter the ecosystem in a negative way — disease, overpopulation, etc.
The Tillett Springs Rearing Station has an isolation room that can store eggs or fish suspect of disease, reducing the risk of harming an ecosystems.
Wyoming as a whole doesn’t have to worry all that much about disease as it’s a headwater state. Many of the waterways in the state start up in the mountains, which is advantageous when it comes to reducing the likelihood of disease.
Anglers within the state have an abundance of fish they can land on any given day in any given location. Many of those fish are locals, and the ones that aren’t find their way to Wyoming by way of fish trades.