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Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 5:15pm





Based on August 1 conditions, alfalfa hay production in Utah is forecast at 2.24 million tons, according to the August 1 Agricultural Yield Survey conducted by the Mountain Regional Field Office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA. This forecast is up less than one-half percent from the 2.23 million tons produced in 2016. Utah farmers and ranchers expect to harvest 520,000 acres of alfalfa hay this year, down 10,000 acres from 2016. Alfalfa hay yield is expected to average 4.30 tons per acre, compared to last year’s yield of 4.20 tons per acre. 


Utah peach production for 2017 is forecast at 3,700 tons, down 28 percent from last year’s production of 5,160 tons. 




Production of alfalfa and alfalfa mixture dry hay for 2017 is forecast at 56.2 million tons, down 4 percent from 2016. Based on August 1 conditions, yields are expected to average 3.28 tons per acre, down 0.17 ton from last year. Harvested area is forecast at 17.1 million acres, unchanged from the June forecast but up 1 percent from 2016. 


United States peach production is forecast at 735,200 tons, down 8 percent from 2016. 


For a full copy of the Crop Production report please visit www.nass.usda.gov. 


Changes Await Duck and Goose Hunters

Free Waterfowl Guidebook lists them all

Duck and goose hunting zone changes—and a new daily limit for pintail ducks—are among changes awaiting Utah’s waterfowl hunters this fall.

All of the changes are available in the 2017 – 2018 Utah Waterfowl Guidebook. You can get the free guidebook at www.wildlife.utah.gov/guidebooks.

Blair Stringham, migratory game bird coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, lists the major changes. He also provides information about the wetland conditions you can expect to find in Utah this fall.

Change 1 – One pintail a day

For the first time in several years, Utah hunters can take only one pintail duck a day. While most duck species are flourishing, the pintail population continues to fluctuate.

Stringham says biologists aren’t sure why pintails are struggling, but reduced funding through the Conservation Reserve Program might be one reason why. The CRP pays farmers to keep grasslands in their natural state and not farm them. Funding for the federal program has been reduced in recent years.

“Pintails tend to nest quite a ways from water,” he says, “in upland areas with plenty of native grasses. As CRP funding has decreased, more of these grassland areas are being farmed, leaving fewer areas for the pintails to nest.”

Urban development and long-term drought in central California, including a severe drought that gripped the area in 2015 and 2016, might also be factors. Most of the pintails in North America winter in central California. “Development and drought have led to fewer rice fields and wetlands for the birds,” he says.

Change 2 – Two duck hunting zones

Splitting Utah into two duck hunting zones—each with its own season dates—should make hunting better in southern Utah.

When past waterfowl seasons opened in early October, few ducks had made their way to southern Utah yet. “Creating two ducks hunting zones,” Stringham says, “each with its own season dates, allows the season in the South Zone to start one week later than it has in the past. Starting the season one week later means it can also end one week later, when there are still plenty of birds in the southern part of the state.”

The duck hunt in the North Zone runs from Oct. 7 to Jan. 20. In the South Zone, the hunt runs Oct. 14 – Jan. 27.

Having two duck zones also allows Utah to offer two Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days, one in each zone. The youth hunt in the North Zone happens Sept. 23. In the South Zone, the hunt happens Sept. 30.

Change 3 – Four goose hunting zones

Utah now has four goose hunting zones, the Eastern Box Elder, Northern, Southern and Wasatch. Boundary descriptions and season dates for each zone are available on pages 30 and 31 of the guidebook.

Change 4 – Rest area at Ogden Bay

A new waterfowl rest area should make hunting better at the Ogden Bay Waterfowl Management Area west of Hooper. The area, which is closed to hunting, is just west of the headquarters building. It’s about 250 acres in size.

Stringham says rest areas make hunting better by keeping birds on WMAs longer. “Rest areas are great for hunting,” he says. “After congregating on a rest area, the birds will fly from the rest area to other areas on the WMA. Rest areas keep birds on WMAs longer, providing hunters with chances to take birds that normally would have left because of hunting pressure.”

Change 5 – New way to get your HIP number

Those with smartphones and tablets have a new way to obtain their yearly Harvest Information Program (HIP) number. Just visit www.wildlife.utah.gov/uthip, and answer a few basic questions. After you do, your HIP number will appear on your screen. See page 10 of the guidebook for more information.

Wetland conditions

With two exceptions, wetland conditions in Utah should be similar to last year. Marsh conditions should be excellent at WMAs that are fed by rivers, including Farmington Bay and Ogden Bay. WMAs that are fed by springs, such as Public Shooting Grounds and Clear Lake, will be drier. Conditions at spring-fed WMAs should improve, though, as the season moves along.

The big news is Great Salt Lake. Currently, the water level is 4,194 feet above sea level. Last fall, the water level was below 4,189 feet, an all-time low.

The additional water flooded some of the fresh water portions of the lake, producing pondweed, salicornia, bulrush and other food for ducks and geese to eat. Stringham says every time the lake rises, even slightly, thousands of additional acres of wetlands become available to waterfowl.

The second exception is lakes and reservoirs that waterfowl use. The water level at many of the reservoirs and lakes in Utah is the highest it’s been in years. “More water means more habitat and resting areas for the birds,” he says.

Waterfowl Slam

If you'd like to add some fun, excitement and challenge to your hunt, while giving back to waterfowl and providing yourself with more places to hunt, consider earning some colorful leg bands in the state's Waterfowl Slam. You can learn more about the slam at www.wildlife.utah.gov/utah-waterfowl-slam.


PHOTOS  -  16 photos to accompany this story are available at   http://udwrnewsphotos.zenfolio.com/p225801291   .

Contact: Mark Hadley, DWR Relations with the Public Specialist, 801-538-4737

Keep Fish, Make Fishing Better at Two Northeastern Utah Waters

Vernal -- You can make fishing better at Starvation Reservoir by keeping the small walleye you catch. And you can do the same thing at Red Fleet Reservoir by keeping the yellow perch you catch.

Both waters are in northeastern Utah. Biologists with the Division of Wildlife Resources are asking anglers to keep these fish after the biologists used small mesh nets to catch fish at the reservoirs this summer. These netting surveys allow biologists to see how the food base in a reservoir is doing.   

“When we do these nettings,” says Natalie Boren, regional fisheries biologist with the DWR, “we want to see many more prey fish than predators. It takes lots of prey fish to produce a stable and healthy population of predators.”

Yellow perch are one of the main items predators in Starvation eat. And biologists found very few of them in their nets this summer.

Boren says yellow perch numbers were down in 2016 and again this year. “On the flip side,” she says, “we saw many small walleye. The small walleye are a product of the numerous 24-inch and longer walleye we saw in the reservoir in 2015.

“Seeing few yellow perch in our nets, but numerous walleye, makes us nervous about the future of the fishery,” she says.

Boren says you can help by keeping the small 10- to 14-inch walleye you catch, up to the daily limit of 10.

“Reducing the number of smaller walleye will help reduce competition for food among the walleye and improve the health of the walleye into the future,” she says. “We’ve been trying to bolster the prey base at Starvation by transferring adult yellow perch and crappie to the reservoir. We’ll continue doing these transfers, but we definitely need anglers to help by keeping the smaller walleye they catch.”

Boren says Red Fleet Reservoir is a different story. The reservoir was treated with rotenone in October 2015, so the fishery is quite young. After the treatment, biologists stocked several different fish species into the reservoir. Surveys this summer showed yellow perch, which spawned in the reservoir in 2016, are the most numerous. The perch have also grown to a decent size. Unfortunately, they’re too large for the small walleye in the reservoir to eat.

Boren is asking anglers to start targeting yellow perch at Red Fleet, especially during the ice fishing season this winter. The yellow perch limit is 50 perch a day.

“For our part,” she says, “we’ll be stocking smaller fish, including fathead minnow, to try to feed these smaller walleye until they’re large enough to target the yellow perch.”

 Trina Hedrick, regional aquatics manager for the DWR, realizes biologists are asking anglers to do different things: remove predators at Starvation and remove prey at Red Fleet.

“Anglers need to understand that although we’re asking them to do things a little differently at each reservoir, the reasons are based on our netting results,” she says. “We can’t treat every reservoir the same. We have different fisheries and different situations at each, and our sampling shows this. Keeping smaller walleye at Starvation, and yellow perch, no matter their size at Red Fleet, is the key to improving fishing at both waters.”

If you have questions, please call the DWR’s Northeastern Region office at 435-781-9453.

PHOTOS  -  four photos to accompany this story are available at  http://udwrnewsphotos.zenfolio.com/p190068305   .