Ten thousand fish streamed through a pipe and into a barge before being distributed throughout Strawberry Reservoir, flipping through the air as they were released in the boat’s wake.
The restocking of the reservoir is part of the Department of Wildlife Resource’s efforts to prepare Utah waters for the next year of fishing and the fall’s prime fishing season.
“Fishing actually starts to improve in the fall and can be a lot of fun,” said Alan Ward, lead aquatic biologist at Strawberry Reservoir with the DWR. “Anglers should take advantage of it.”
According to the DWR the time of year is more productive for fishing in part because of water temperature. As waters cool there is more oxygen in the water, causing fish to become more active. In addition, water levels will rise around the state as water is diverted away from irrigation efforts and directed toward the reservoirs.
Timing is also helpful. Drew Cushing, warm water sport fisheries coordinator for the DWR, suggests anglers hit up fishing between now and Oct. 5. Fish respond to the phases of the moon, meaning in mid-October fishing will be best just before and after the full moon. At Strawberry Reservoir, fishing is expected to be prime until it freezes over, in large part due to the efforts of the DWR.
“We’re all about managing for the public, the anglers, and the state of Utah, and we want them to be as successful as possible,” Ward said. “We try to build the populations the best we can and have the best fishing opportunities available.”
The DWR spent this week stocking Strawberry Reservoir with 400,000 rainbow trout. Strawberry Reservoir is one of the state’s busiest fishing sites, with anglers fishing for more than 1.5 million hours each year, meaning the fish must be restocked every fall.
The trout were brought in from fisheries throughout Utah in enormous tanks on a truck and then pumped onto a barge. Each load of 10,000 fish fills the tank in a matter of minutes. The fish, groomed for their high survival rates, are then transported to various locations throughout the lake to bolster the population. The entire process happens very quickly as the trout grow increasingly agitated with decreasing oxygen levels.
The fish are released through a pipe running behind the boat. The DWR biologists will make two to three trips a day for two weeks to distribute the fish. During the spring more restocking occurs, but of cutthroat instead of rainbow trout.
According to the DWR, all of these efforts, in addition to planting trees on the banks of streams to provide fish with shade, removing beaver dams to increase water flow and “pelican hazing” to prevent pelicans from eating too many fish, are designed to provide Utahns with a quality fishing experience they hope many will take advantage of.
“Grab a fishing pole,” Ward said. “A lot of the younger generations still like to get out and enjoy the outdoors in one respect or another — backpacking, climbing, rock climbing, various other activities — just about any of these activities you can take a fishing pole with you.”
BYU student and frequent fisherman Jordan Nielsen agrees. “I’ve gone up in the Uintas, it’s fun to hike up there and backpack up there and take your fishing gear,” he said. “It’s really great to enjoy nature.”