COLUMN: Fishermen take advantage of open water in reservoirs | Sports

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There has been a major change in fishing conditions on rivers and flatwater fishing over the past week.

It’s safe to say that spring has now arrived in the Big Horn Basin. Lakes and ponds that were covered in ice opened up. The North Fork and other rivers and streams have also opened up enough for the annual spring spawning runs of trout to begin. The fishing should be extremely good as long as we don’t receive any major cold weather in the week or weeks ahead.

Buffalo Bill, Beck Lake, East Newton, Luce, and Hogan Reservoirs lost most, if not all, of their ice cover.

The Boysen Reservoir also has some of its bays open on the east and west sides of the lake. Anglers took advantage of the open water. Boaters lag behind Buffalo Bill. As long as the wind is not blowing too hard, fishing in late March on this relatively small impoundment can be quite good.

East Newton Lake is a popular fishery that is managed for trophy trout by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. All fish must be caught by fly or lure only, no bait is allowed and all trout must be released to grow.

To ensure trout are released safely and in good health, anglers should keep trout in the water to keep their gills moist. Keeping trout wet also means that they breathe while the hook is removed. This method greatly reduces stress and also prevents the angler from squeezing the trout and damaging internal organs.

Use a net with a soft material like a rubber net to prevent the trout from losing the protective mud from its body. When handling trout, anglers should (must) handle the fish with wet hands for the same reasons, a soft net is recommended. Once the trout’s protective slime has been removed by dry hands or a dry net, its skin becomes susceptible to bacteria and infection.

This will eventually kill the trout. If you’ve caught trout in East Newton, or elsewhere, that have black body spots or white fungus, it’s due to improper handling techniques and a blatant disregard for the fishery itself.

Barbless hooks not only speed up quick hook removal, but also reduce damage to the facial and jaw tissue of hooked fish. A pair of hemostats or forceps easily crushes the barb on a hook. Make sure the barb is completely flat against the tip of the hook when squeezing the barbs.

This, again, helps reduce the stress a trout or other fish experiences during the hook removal process and when anglers handle and hold trout and other fish in the water to release them for that other anglers can catch them and enjoy them in the future. Barbless hooks can also be removed safely and much more easily from anglers clothing, ears, face and fingers if they run into a fly or lure while fishing!

Trout travel from Buffalo Bill to the South and North Forks of the Shoshone River to ascend their annual spring in these rivers to find good spawning gravels on which to lay, fertilize, and cover their eggs. The race is a bit late this year due to the sub-zero temperatures of a few weeks ago. Anglers fish best in the rivers where they enter the Buffalo Bill Reservoir.

Few trout have yet moved very far, although they can swim incredible distances in a short time when the gene to spawn kicks in. Please treat them with respect. There are few wild or native trout streams left in the western United States. We are lucky to have them where we live.

Remember: The North Fork of the Shoshone closes April 1 and reopens July 1 from what’s called the Gibbs Bridge at Buffalo Bill State Park to the North Fork to Newton Creek. The fishery is open without closing west of Newton Creek.

The closure boundary also includes the West Arm of Buffalo Bill Reservoir from which Rattlesnake and Sheep creeks enter the reservoir.

Buffalo Bill’s West Arm is closed April 1 through July 15. This closure has been part of fishing regulations for decades and has proven to be very beneficial to our wild rainbows and native Yellowstone cutthroats that breed and swim in the Shoshone and Buffalo Bills.

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