SALT LAKE CITY — Despite the state's extreme drought conditions in 2021, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) stocked a whopping 9,616,203 fish in 615 water bodies to ensure that native fish populations flourished and to support fishing in the area.
This effort involved over one million more fish than were stocked in 2020, though fewer than the 10 million stocked in 2019, when larger fish were stocked to increase their survival rate.
Drought conditions cause stress on fish populations, as lower water levels are warmer, thereby holding less oxygen and causing poor growth and more disease. This year, DWR took these low levels into account and stocked fish in waterways that could support their health and ability to flourish.
Utah has been stocking fish for over 100 years, though originally they were transported from other states by train and put into lakes and waterways along the route. Utah began opening hatcheries in 1897 to raise trout locally.
“These original hatcheries were really impounded streams where we put fry that we got from the federal government,” said DWR Aquatic Section Assistant Chief Craig Schaugaard.
“We opened our first traditional fish hatchery — where we produced our own eggs and used raceways like we have today — in Murray in 1899.”
Utah now boasts 13 facilities around the state, with the vast majority of stocked fish (1.1 million pounds of the 1.2 million pound total) coming from DWR hatcheries.
“Our hatcheries are important because they provide the majority of the fish we stock in the state,” Schaugaard said.
“Stocking is a crucial management tool that we use to provide Utahns with the numbers and species of fish they desire. Stocking fish helps ensure that the public has a great fishing experience. It also helps in the recovery of threatened or endangered fish."
DWR stocked 16 different fish species in 2021, including the arctic grayling, black crappie, bonytail chub (an endangered species), brook trout, brown trout, channel catfish, cutthroat trout, June sucker, kokanee salmon, lake trout, largemouth bass, splake, striped bass, tiger muskie, and walleye.
More details about the DWR's stocking program can be found on their website.