weather icon Clear
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

2017 Brian Head fire still could harm fish at Panguitch Lake

In late July 2017, as firefighters were bringing the Brian Head fire to an end, fisheries biologists with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources were monitoring the impact on the area’s popular fisheries.

Among those was Panguitch Lake, a 1,250-acre impoundment east of Cedar City in Utah’s Color Country. Long a favorite destination for Southern Nevada anglers seeking an adventurous escape from summer temperatures, Panguitch is known for giving up large trout.

At the time, Richard Hepworth, Southern Region aquatics manager for the DWR, expressed concern about the fire’s potential impact on Panguitch Lake and its popular fishery. His biggest concern was the ash left in the fire’s wake and the possibility that summer rains could send it downstream into the lake.

In significant amounts, ash makes it difficult for fish to process oxygen and can even clog their gills.

A year later, however, fishing has been good enough that most anglers might believe the Panguitch Lake fishery escaped unscathed.

“Panguitch Lake is in great shape right now. Fishing has been fantastic,” Hepworth said.

But he still has concerns. One is the high summer temperatures.

“If we have too many days of hot weather, the fish get pinched between low oxygen water off the bottom and warm water near the top,” he said.

But Hepworth’s biggest concern remains the ash load left in the drainages above the lake. Even if the ash isn’t washed into the lake in enough volume to choke the fish, the extra nutrients it carries could react with that already in the lake to create algae blooms. Blue-green blooms can be toxic to fish.

Hepworth said it’s not a matter of if something will happen but when. In the meantime, he said anglers should enjoy fishing at the lake.

According to the most recent fishing report, “Fishing has been fair to good from boats, and slower from shore because trout have moved out to deeper water. Most anglers are fishing with bait from boats.”

Though Panguitch Lake has been spared thus far, the fire didn’t spare many of the nearby streams.

“We lost a lot of fish in the streams and almost complete fish kills in the three main tributaries feeding Panguitch,” Hepworth said. “It will take about three years to fully re-establish those fisheries and before fish can survive in those streams.”

The challenge is overcoming the flooding that occurs after a fire has burned off the vegetation that helps slow the runoff from a rainstorm.

“We have put some extra fish into the streams. If they survive for a year, we know things are good,” Hepworth said.

Red Creek, also known as Paragonah reservoir, experienced a 90 percent loss of its fish population during a storm event. While a normal flood doesn’t hurt fisheries when the habitat is in good condition, it is flooding on top of a fire event that can cause problems for fisheries. The ash binds with sediment and reduces available oxygen in the water.

Yankee Meadows, once a remote and relatively unknown reservoir, came through the fire relatively unscathed.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions are his own. Find him on Facebook at @dougwritesoutdoors. He can be reached at intheoutdoorslv@gmail.com.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Input needed on ways to maintain Lake Mead launch ramps

The Park Service is seeking input from the public about maintaining launch ramp access for motorized recreational boaters as low water conditions persist.

Arrows fly in fun at archers’ state outdoor championships

For archers looking to prepare for an upcoming big game hunt, participation in tournaments such as the Outdoor Championships are a good method of honing your skills.

As ice melts on reservoirs, trout fishing improves

The hard water covering reservoirs has begun to melt away from the shorelines, leaving open water for anglers willing to brave the cold temperatures.

Digital tag-application results lack old-school wallop

We live in a time when everything is going digital. While that has made aspects of our life more convenient, I miss some of the old school ways.

Ice fishing derby on Comins Lake offering cash prizes

Does the possibility of taking home a $5,000 payday enough to cause you to break out your trout rod, some cold weather gear and a comfortable camp chair?

It’s wise to pay attention to fish consumption advisories

The purpose of these advisories is to help people make informed decisions about where to fish or harvest shellfish, says the Environmenal Protection Agency.

Narrow window now open for more hunting in Arizona

A total of six limited-entry permit tags are up for grabs. Two each for elk, mule deer and white-tailed deer. The deadline to apply is Friday.

Bird population needs assist from Mother Nature

Couple more than 20 years of drought with two of the driest years on record and you have habitat conditions that have significantly limited bird production.