9.6 million fish added to Utah waters as part of stocking efforts

SALT LAKE CITY — Tracking fish? No, poisoning. In 2021, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources stocked nearly 10 million fish in over 600 bodies of water.

The Utah DWR stocks a variety of fish species in Utah water bodies each year. This year the DWR has increased the amount of fish stocked from 2020 by over one million fish. They stocked 9.6 million fish in 2021, 8.2 million fish in 2020 and 10 million fish in 2019.

Stocking photo: Wildlife Resources Division

What is the need for stocking?

In a press release, the DWR explained that stocking in Utah dates back more than a century. Fish were first stocked in 1871 in Beehive State.

“Restocking is a crucial management tool that we use to provide Utahns with the number and species of fish they desire,” said Craig Schaugaard, assistant chief of DWR’s aquatics section.

“Stocking the fish helps ensure that the public (have) a great fishing experience. It also helps in the recovery of threatened or endangered fish.

And, there is evidence of the success of recovery efforts such as stocking operations.

“June Suckers was recently moved from endangered to threatened,” Schaugaard added.

Fish for stocking are sourced from Utah hatcheries, or sites where fish are produced for release. Utah’s first hatchery opened in 1899. Today, the state has 13 hatcheries that supply the majority of the millions of pounds of fish stocked each year.

The hatchery supplies Kokanee salmon for the Weber River. Photo: Wildlife Resources Division

Stocking efforts adjusted to extreme drought

Each year, the DWR adjusts its stocking plans and procedures based on ecological and environmental needs. This year, extreme drought was a major consideration.

The press release explained the dangers droughts pose to Utah fish. Droughts lead to lower water levels and higher water temperatures. Warmer water contains less oxygen than cooler water. A lack of oxygen “can stress fish, causing poor growth and disease,” the DWR said.

To accommodate Utah’s drought, the DWR stocked fewer fish in low-water bodies where fish survival and welfare were less assured. They also reallocated these fish from low water bodies to other water bodies not affected by the drought.

Another method of managing fish populations is the production of sterile fish. Hatcheries intentionally produce non-reproductive fish in order to control fish populations in various water bodies.

The DWR stocked 16 species of fish including two subspecies of trout, including:

  • arctic shadow
  • black toad
  • Bonytail chub (listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act)
  • brook trout
  • brown trout
  • channel catfish
  • Cutthroat Trout (Bonneville and Colorado River)
  • June sucker (listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act)
  • Kokanee salmon
  • lake trout
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Rainbow trout
  • Splash
  • Striped Bass
  • musk tiger
  • Walleye
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