Grey's River fishing.
Information modified from the Wyoming Game & Fish Wyoming Wildlife magazine September 1997 issue. Illustrations by Michelle LaGory.
|Over 80% of Sublette County is public land, mostly National Forest or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. The Bridger-Teton National Forest and the Bridger Wilderness area in the Wind River Mountains contain over 1,300 lakes and thousands of miles of streams. Fish, mainly trout, are plentiful and offer hours of relaxing recreation to the avid and casual fisherman. Most area streams begin to open in April, although high country lakes may not be accessible until July. Soda Lake, a popular lake approximately 6 miles from Pinedale, opens up for fishing each year on May 10th. Fremont Lake, the second largest natural lake in Wyoming, and the 7th deepest lake in the country. This lake is 12 miles long and 1/2 mile wide and contains fish as large as in the 40 lb. range. In June, the annual Father's Day Fishing Derby is held. The annual Ice Fishing Derby is held in March. The Green River and New Fork River offer excellent trout fishing with many public access points.|
The brook trout is native to the eastern United States and Canada from Labrador to Georgia and west-ward to Wisconsin. This species was widely introduced in the western United States from the late 1800s until around 1940. The brook trout prefers clean, cold streams and has become well established in the mountain regions throughout most of the Wyoming. The brook trout is a prolific fall spawner. In small streams, it often overpoputates which may eliminate other trout species and cause the brook trout to remain “stunted” or unable to grow past a relatively small size. Like most stream trout, brook trout’s food consists mainly of aquatic insects. Larger brook trout, particularly in lakes, often feed on smaller fish. Brook trout are easily caught using most popular trout fishing methods. The state record fish was taken from Green River Lake near Pinedale, Wyoming and weighed 9.69 pounds. Most brook trout in Wyoming range from six to ten inches. The brook trout is distinguished from the true trout (genus Salmo) by tight spots on a dark background and from lake trout by a relatively square caudal fin and the presence of blue or pink spots.
The brown trout was introduced to America from Europe. It is now widely distributed in lakes and streams throughout Wyoming. In streams brown trout prefer dense cover, particularly overhead cover from undercut banks and vegetation. Brown trout are slightly more tolerant of high water temperatures than other trout. The brown trout is a fall spawner. Like most trout, young browns feed on aquatic insects, crustaceans, and plankton in takes and reservoirs. Brown trout over twelve inches usually prefer larger food items such as small fish and crayfish. Due to their longer life span (up to ten years) and preference for large food items, brown trout often reach trophy sizes. Fish over ten pounds are not uncommon, and fish over twenty pounds have been taken from the North Platte River and Flaming Gorge Reservoir. The current state record from Flaming Gorge is 25.81 pounds, though fish over thirty pounds have been taken by anglers on the Utah end of the reservoir. Brown trout are more nocturnal than other trout and, therefore, early morning and late evening fishermen are usually most successful. Most conventional trout fishing techniques work for brown trout. Trailing large plugs is especially effective for trophy browns in large reservoirs. Browns are distinguished from rainbow and cutthroat by the relative lack of spots on the unformed caudal fin, by the typical presence of orange spots on the side, and by the orange border on the adipose fin. Browns have dark spots on a lighter background versus light spots on a darker background as found in brook trout.
(Oncorhynchus clarki pleuriticus)
The cutthroat trout is the only trout native to Wyoming. Six subspecies of cutthroat originally occurred in Wyoming, though the greenback cutthroat of the South Platte Drainage is now extinct in the state. The subspecies still found in Wyoming include the Colorado River cutthroat from the Green and Little Snake River Drainage, the Yellowstone cutthroat from the Yellowstone Basin, the Bonneville cutthroat from the Bear River Drainage, the West Slope cutthroat from the Upper Missouri Drainage in Yellowstone Park, and the Snake River cutthroat from the Snake River Drainage. Cutthroat are not native in the North Platte Drainage.
The Snake River cutthroat is a fine-spotted variety while the other
subspecies have larger spots. Cutthroat are spring spawners. Principal
food of the cutthroat is plankton and aquatic insects in lakes, and aquatic
insects in streams. Cutthroat over twelve inches, especially Snake River
cutthroat, often feed on small fish and crayfish. Most conventional trout
fishing techniques work fine for cutthroat - in fact, they are one of the
easiest trout to catch on hook and line. The state record cutthroat
weighed fifteen pounds and was taken from Native Lake, Sublette County
in 1959. Cutthroat can be distinguished from other trout by the orange
or red “cutthroat”
Grayling are native in cold water regions of the Northern Hemisphere. In North America, their native range was across northern Canada with southern extensions into Michigan and the upper Missouri drainage above the falls. Grayling have been introduced into a number of high lakes in Wyoming. Though they are a cold-water species, grayling generally do best in relatively shallow high lakes with more moderate summer water temperatures and longer growing seasons than those found in many alpine lakes. Meadow Lake near Pinedale is Wyoming’s most important grayling fishery and serves as the egg source for stocking other waters. The grayling is a spring spawner, migrating into inlet tributaries to spawn over gravel beds. Some grayling populations tend to become “stunted” due to the fish’s prolific nature. Food of the grayling is similar to other Wyoming salmonids with perhaps a higher preference for terrestrial insects. Grayling are easily caught on small flies and spinners. The current state record is 2.36 pounds. Grayling are distinguished from trout by larger scales; from suckers by the presence of an adipose fin; and from whitefish by a large dorsal fin, a larger mouth, and spots on the side.
The kokanee is a land-locked variety of the sockeye salmon native to certain lakes in Washington and British Columbia. In Wyoming, the kokonee has been introduced in Fremont and New Forks lakes and Flaming Gorge Reservoir. Other large lakes and reservoirs are being considered for introduction of kokanee though careful consideration is necessary to avoid competition with established trout species. Kokanee are well adapted for large cool reservoirs. They possess large numbers of fine gillrakers which enable them to feed on plankton more efficiently than most species. Kokanee are fall spawners. Various strains spawn from late August to early November. In Flaming Gorge Reservoir, kokanee begin running Sheep Creek in early September. Kokanee usually begin running the Green River in October, and yet another subpopulation spawns along the shoreline of the reservoir in October and November. As with other Pacific salmon, kokanee die following spawning. Spawning concentrations of kokanee can be fished by snagging or using jigs or streamers. During the summer, kokanee are taken by trolling pop-gear with worms or small, brightly colored spinners. Kokanee generally average twelve to sixteen inches in length in Wyoming. Fish up to four pounds have been observed in the spawning runs from Flaming Gorge. The current Wyoming record is 5.73 pounds. Spawning kokanee are distinguished from trout by their brilliant red color. Kokanee not in spawning color are distinguished from trout by the greater number of anal fin rays. Kokanee have thirteen to fifteen anal rays, while trout usually have none to eleven anal rays.
The lake trout or mackinaw is native in Canada and the Great Lakes from the Yukon to the Atlantic coast. The lake trout is primarily an inhabitant of large, deep, cold lakes. The more important lake trout fisheries in Wyoming include Jackson. Jenny and Leigh lakes in Teton County; the Finger lakes near Pinedale; Lewis, Shoshone, Heart takes in Yellowstone Park; Flaming Gorge Reservoir; and Buffalo Bill Reservoir near Cody. The lake trout is a fall spawner that spawns on rocky shoals in lakes rather than in flowing water as other Wyoming trout. Food of lake trout over twelve inches is predominantly fish. Trout, chubs, whitefish, and kokanee have been found in lake trout stomachs in Wyoming. The lake trout is an extremely long-lived fish. Fish over twenty years old have been reported. Since lake trout prefer deep, cold water, lake trout fishermen use specialized gear. Large plugs or spoons trolled with weighted line or downriggers is a popular fishing method. Others prefer to jig large spoons with a chunk of sucker meat. Lake trout are the largest fish that live in Wyoming and the state record fish weighing fifty pounds each have been caught from Jackson Lake and Flaming Gorge Reservoir. Lake trout are distinguished from most trout by the lack of dark spots and from brook trout by a forked tail and absence of pink or blue spots.
The golden trout is native to the South Fork of the Kern River in California. Golden trout have been introduced to Wyoming primarily in alpine lakes. There are currently over a hundred lakes in Wyoming managed for golden trout. Most of these lakes are in the Wind River Range, but there are also populations in the Absoraka and Bighorn mountains and Snowy Range. The golden trout is a spring spawner. Hybridization with rainbow and cutthroat trout does occur, so management programs are designed to keep these species reproductively isolated whenever possible. Plankton is the principal food of golden trout in high lakes. Fishermen attempting to catch golden trout often leave frustrated due to the golden’s seeming disregard for flies, lures, and bait at certain times. Most successful golden fishermen used small baits, lures, or flies, and a lot of patience. Golden trout in high lakes often feed for only very short periods during the day, so the successful fisherman must spend a lot of time to make sure he’s on the water at the right time. The Wyoming and world record for golden trout is 11.25 pounds, taken from Cook Lake, Sublette County, in 1948. Most golden trout in Wyoming seldom exceed fourteen inches. Goldens are distinguished from cutthroat trout by the absence of basabranchial teeth and white border on the pelvic and anal fins. They are distinguished from rainbow trout by the lack of spotting on the front of the body.
In Wyoming. the mountain whitefish is common in all drainages west of the Continental Divide. It also occurs in the Madison, Yellowstone, Bighorn and Tongue drainages in the Missouri Basin. Although it inhabits some lakes, the mountain whitefish is generally found in large, clear streams where it prefers deep, fast water. In streams, the whitefish feeds mainly on insects, including caddis fly and midge larvae, and stonefly and mayfly nymphs. Plankton is the primary food in lakes. The whitefish is a fall spawner, with the spawning period generally beginning in mid-October. Whitefish are often easily caught. Small nymphs, dry flies, and spinners are excellent baits, as are aquatic insects fished on a small hook. Whitefish are good fighters when taken on light tackle; they are excellent table fare as well, especially when smoked. The mountain whitefish is distinguished from trout by the coarse scales and small pointed mouth; from grayling by the shorter dorsal fin, smaller mouth, and absence of black spots; and from suckers and chubs by the presence of the adipose fin. Wyoming whitefish generally average 10 to 16 inches in length. The current state record fish weighed 4.25 pounds.
Rainbow trout are native to the Pacific coast and have been introduced widely to Wyoming. Rainbow are presently the most important fish used in Wyoming’s hatchery system. The rainbow, like the cutthroat, is a spring spawner. Since these two species are fairly close relatives, hybridization often occurs. Because of this, rainbow are no longer being stocked in waters containing native populations of cutthroat trout. Rainbow prefer cool, clear water, either streams or lakes, with maximum water temperatures below seventy degrees Fahrenheit. Food of the rainbow trout in lakes is mainly plankton, but they also eat aquatic insects, snails, crayfish, and fresh-water shrimp. Larger rainbow prey on small fish. The primary food in streams is aquatic insects. Rainbow are readily caught with spinning, bait, and fly fishing gear. The current state record for rainbow trout is a twenty-three-pound fish taken from Burnt Lake in Sublette County. Rainbow are distinguished from cutthroat by the absence of basibranchial teeth, the absence of cutthroat markings under the jaw, a white tip on the pelvic and anal fins, and more uniform spotting pattern. They are distinguished from kokanee by eleven anal fin rays versus thirteen to fifteen for the kokanee.
Sublette County Record Fish
|Grayling||2.36 lbs.||19 5//8 inches||10 1/2 inches||Meadow Lake, Sublette County||1983||Robert Doak|
|Trout, brook||9 lbs., 11 oz.||24 1/2 inches||Unknown||Green River Lake, Sublette County||1976||Max Long|
|Trout, cutthroat||15 lbs.||32 inches||Unknown||Native Lake, Sublette County||1959||Alan Dow|
|Trout, golden||11 lbs., 4 oz.||28 inches||Unknown||Cook Lake, Sublette County||1948||C. S. Reed|
|Trout, rainbow||23 lbs.||35 1/2 inches||Unknown||Burnt Lake, Sublette County||1969||Frank Favazzo|
The Wyoming Game & Fish Department web site
Wyoming Game & Fish Fishing Information
Record Fish that have been Caught in the State of Wyoming
Fishing Regulations (PDF)
Native Fish Species of Wyoming
Non-native Fish Species of Wyoming