SALT LAKE CITY - Anglers can win up to $10,000 next month if they reel one of the unwanted burbot fish in the Flaming Gorge Reservoir on the Utah-Wyoming border.
The third-annual "Burbot Bash Fishing Derby" is scheduled for Feb. 1-3. It is hosted by wildlife agencies in Utah and Wyoming, several chambers of commerce and the U.S. Forest Service.
Fisherman can win $1,000, $2,500 or $10,000 by catching one of 25 burbots that will be tagged. The prize pot is about $20,000.
The burbot was illegally introduced into the reservoir in 2006, said Ryan Mosley of the Utah Division of Wildlife.
"They have just exploded in abundance," Mosley said.
The burbot, which usually weigh 6-8 pounds, harm other sport fish that are native to the reservoir such as the small mouth bass, Mosley said. The burbot compete with the bass for their main source of food and sometimes burbot eat small mouth bass.
"They are kind of getting it from two different ends," said Mosley of the small mouth bass.
The burbot are native to Wyoming but on the eastern side of the Continental Divide. Officials believe a fisherman transported one to a river that drains into the Flaming Gorge Reservoir. It might have been a fisherman who wanted to reel them in closer to home, said Mosley, who said the burbot are sought after fish that are very tasty.
Wildlife officials opted to lean on fisherman to help remove the fish rather than other removal techniques that can be costly, time-consuming and labor intensive, Mosley said. The fishing competition is a way to provide a family-friendly recreational event while also reducing the burbot population.
Officials are expecting about 400 people in the competition. Anglers can also win cash prizes for most catching the most burbot or reeling in the biggest burbot. Burbots are about 35 inches long.
The lucky fishermen who catch one of the 25 fish with prize tags won't know how much they've won until they go to the closing ceremony Feb. 3 at the rodeo grounds in Manila, Utah.
The Flaming Gorge Reservoir spans across the Wyoming-Utah border, south of Rock Springs, Wyo.