Wyoming Game And Fish Try New Technology To Control Invasive Burbot

Dec 1, 2016

Pinedale Fish Biologist Darren Rhea holds up a large burbot netted in Fontenelle Reservoir in October.
Credit WYOMING GAME AND FISH DEPARTMENT

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department are using a new technology this year to track the movement of the non-native burbot fish in the Green River drainage.

PIT tags, or passive integrated transponder, are inserted into the fish’s belly which can be monitored by antennas to record when a fish moves upstream.

According to John Walrath, Green River fisheries biologist, burbot feed mostly on other fish, causing concern for native populations of the river such as smallmouth bass, bluehead, and flannelmouth suckers.

“I don’t know if it’s realistic to ever get rid of burbot in the drainage, so it’s just something that we’re going to see. If we can get the burbot population pushed back enough, that the bass can at least sustain themselves, that would be a win-win,” said Walrath.

By monitoring the paths of the burbot, Walrath says Game and Fish will be able to better inform anglers on where they can catch as many burbots as possible to bring their numbers down.

“When a new species is introduced, they tend to explode and take over an area. That has a lot to do with other species not having been around that species before. It tends to throw the whole ecosystem out of balance. We’re trying to figure out an Achilles heel,” said Walrath.

As of last year, burbot have been listed as a non-game species, which means there is no limit as to how many burbot a single person can catch.

According to Walrath, burbot are voracious predators, likely introduced to the river system illegally in the 1980s. Flaming Gorge, Fontenelle, and Big Sandy reservoirs have all seen native fish populations decline.