CASPER, Wyo. — The Wyoming Game and Fish Department said on Thursday, June 25 that recent sampling of Lake Absarraca revealed “both good and bad news.”
Game and Fish says their biologists conduct “nighttime electro-fishing surveys” at the lake every two years in an effort to monitor largemouth bass populations.
“The bass are doing well in Absarraca,” Laramie Region Fisheries Biologist Chance Kirkeeng said in the department’s release. “There are many different size classes present, and we’re seeing good reproduction.”
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Game and Fish said the survey revealed bass up to 18.5 inches long and 4.5 pounds in weight.
“There’s also a strong year-class of 14-inch fish, all weighing about 2 pounds,” Kirkeeng said. “These are nice looking fish.”
Game and Fish also found healthy populations of bluegill and golden shiners and added that Lake Absarraca “is one of the best lakes in southeast Wyoming for bass and offers a great opportunity to catch a Master Angler largemouth bass. The minimum qualifying length for a Master Angler largemouth bass is 16 inches.”
However, the survey also found evidence of fish that were introduced to the lake illegally.
“We caught a 13-inch goldfish and a 19-inch, 3-pound walleye,” Kirkeeng said. “People want to catch walleye, so they introduce walleye in a lake. They don’t want to kill their pet goldfish, so they put those in a lake. Introducing new fish species can change the ecological dynamics of the existing fishery, and is illegal.”
Game and Fish says that pet fish are sometimes introduced into Wyoming’s ponds and lakes which can then lead to population growth of the illegally introduced species.
“Goldfish grow quickly and can have lots of offspring very fast,” Kirkeeng said. “When this happens, these fish grow too big for bass to eat, and often use up a lot of resources in the lake.”
In addition to pet owners illegally introducing species like goldfish, Game and Fish says that some people illegally add fish into lakes in an effort to build up “populations of species they desire to catch.”
“Unfortunately, walleye can have a negative effect on the bass population by slowing their growth due to competition for food, and reducing the bass population by preying on young bass,” Game and Fish said.
Kirkeeng said that leads to changes to the ecosystem and forces Game and Fish to change their management efforts.
“Penalties to introduce fish illegally may include lifetime revocation of Wyoming hunting and fishing privileges, a fine up to $10,000, up to one year in jail, and civil penalties in an amount not to exceed the costs incurred by the department in removing the fish from the waters affected by the violation,” Game and Fish said.
Game and Fish biologists will continue to monitor Lake Absarraca for walleye and goldfish.
“Anglers who catch a walleye in Lake Absarraca are asked to contact the Laramie Game and Fish office at (307) 745-4046,” Game and Fish said. “Anglers should keep in mind that the 15-inch limit on largemouth bass is still in place in Lake Absarraca.”
“The complete fishing regulations and more information about the Master Angler program can be found on the Game and Fish Department webpage at https://wgfd.wyo.gov/.”