Fish biologists with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department say dead channel catfish being reported at Sloans Lake in Cheyenne likely died from shock when they were stocked in the lake’s cold water in December.
Game and Fish received several phone calls from the public with concerns about numerous dead channel catfish that have washed up on shore. WGFD personnel have since retrieved many of the dead catfish. Laramie Region Fisheries Supervisor Bobby Compton said the catfish were stocked in the lake in December after they were obtained from the Wyoming Women’s Center in Lusk through their in-house fish rearing program. The lake received 500 channel catfish weighing between 2 to 3 pounds each in December.
“The fish were healthy when they were stocked. They most likely died from temperature shock when they went from the warmer water in the hatchery to the ice-covered lake,” Compton said. “We have never attempted to stock catfish through the ice, but felt they should acclimate accordingly and survive, but this hardy fish species simply didn’t do well. People were seeing dead fish through the ice shortly after stocking, and when the ice melted there were more,” he said.
In July of 2020, Sloans Lake received 1,500 smaller, catchable-sized channel catfish from the Wyoming Women’s Center. Those fish thrived in Sloans Lake and provided fishing opportunities for anglers throughout the summer. The Wyoming Women’s Center contacted Game and Fish again in December with the 500 additional 2 to 3 pound catfish that needed to be stocked because they needed space in their facility.
While it was unfortunate these particular catfish did not survive, the WGFD plans to continue working with the Wyoming Women’s Center in the future. “Each year we get small 3- to 5-inch catfish in trade from Arkansas for stocking throughout the state in April or May. We want to continue building a working relationship with the Wyoming Women’s Center to raise a portion of these fish up to catchable size for stocking in community ponds like Sloans Lake in August when the water temperatures are still suitable,” Compton said. “With the help of the Women’s Center, we are able to stock some community ponds with catchable size fish that are immediately available to anglers, rather than waiting for a year or more for the smaller fish to reach a catchable size after stocking.”
Compton reminds anglers that other species in the lake are doing fine and the dead catfish were an isolated incident. “Nothing is wrong with the water quality. The fish in Sloans Lake are healthy and safe to eat,” he said. Anglers are reminded to check the 2021 Wyoming Fishing Regulations before going fishing at https://wgfd.wyo.gov/Fishing-and-Boating/Fishing-Regulations