More Rainbow Trout For Strawberry Reservoir

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Donation from anglers brings total to 410,000 rainbows

Strawberry Reservoir anglers—get ready. Fishing at one of the nation’s best trout-fishing waters is about to get even better.

More than 410,000 rainbow trout are headed to your favorite fishing water in north-central Utah!

Background

For years, Division of Wildlife Resources biologists have worked to establish a healthy population of Bear Lake cutthroat trout in Strawberry. In addition to being a beautiful and fun fish to catch, Bear Lake cutthroat trout are great at keeping Utah chub populations under control.

(The cost to do a rotenone treatment on the scale needed to remove chubs from Strawberry would be massive. If chubs ever take the reservoir over again, the trout fishery will probably collapse as it did in the 1980s.)

Special regulations at the reservoir are designed to keep plenty of chub-eating Bear Lake cutthroats in the reservoir. But if you like to keep fish, there’s a downside to the regulations—many of the cutthroats fall within the 15- to 22-inch slot limit that anglers aren’t allowed to keep. And others are longer than 22 inches. Anglers are allowed to keep only one cutthroat longer than that length.

On the other hand, there is no length restriction on rainbow trout or kokanee salmon in Strawberry. But anglers aren’t finding many rainbows to catch; when they’re stocked in the reservoir at their usual 5-inch length, the numerous, large cutthroat trout in the reservoir eat them too.

Bigger rainbows

DWR biologists have some good news, though. They’ve found that if rainbows are grown to 8 inches before they’re stocked, it’s easier for them to avoid predation in Strawberry. Stocking 8-inch rainbows could be the key to providing more rainbow trout for anglers to catch.

But growing rainbows to 8 inches means they must remain in the hatcheries longer. And like so many other items, the cost to buy food to feed the fish is going up.

As DWR hatchery personnel looked forward to the 2008 stocking season, one of their goals was to raise 410,000 rainbows to the 8-inch length for Strawberry. But the cost to raise that many rainbows has escalated.

Sportsmen step up

In response to a budget shortfall at the DWR’s hatchery in Logan, there’s been an outpouring of support from the angling public. (About 40,000 of the 410,000 rainbows scheduled for stocking into Strawberry this year would be raised at the Logan hatchery.)

Even before the DWR could search for funds on its own, a coalition of fishing groups, conservationists and others who care about Strawberry Reservoir stepped forward.

John and Paul Phillips of the Strawberry Bay Lodge and Don and John Mecham of Trail of the Sportsman led the group. They gathered a coalition that included the Salt Lake County Fish and Game Association, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, Trailtv.com, the Strawberry Anglers Association, the Strawberry Bay Marina, Cabela’s and Sportsman’s Warehouse. Their goal? Raise the money needed so the DWR could reach its goal of raising 410,000 8-inch rainbow trout for stocking into Strawberry.

Donation presented

On April 30, a group of sportsmen led by Don Mecham presented checks totaling $14,000 to the DWR. This contribution will help the agency reach its goal of raising 410,000 rainbow trout to the desired 8-inch length. All of these fish will be planted into Strawberry.

Mecham says he and his company, Trail of the Sportsman, are committed to wildlife conservation. Ten percent of the money they receive on their Web site (trailtv.com) is donated to wildlife conservation causes.

They chose to put money into the Strawberry Bay Rainbow Enhancement Project because Strawberry is where they learned to fish as kids. After having kids of their own, they chose Strawberry as the place to teach their kids how to fish.

“We want to help make Strawberry and the rainbow trout enhancement project an enduring priority for years to come,” Mecham says. “We invite other business owners and individuals to become part of the solution. We want to see new families start new family fishing traditions at Strawberry. Planting larger rainbows that they can take home and eat will do just that.”

175,000 pounds of fish

The DWR’s new and improved fish hatcheries are producing more fish than ever before. Just four years ago, in 2003, the DWR put 80,000 pounds of trout into Strawberry. This year, the agency plans on stocking 175,000 pounds of trout into the reservoir. These fish will be a mix of 8-inch sterile rainbow trout, Bear Lake cutthroat trout and kokanee salmon.