9.6 million fish added to Utah waters in fish stocking efforts

Dec 14, 2021, 2:16 PM
In 2021, the Division of Wildlife Resources stocked 9,616,203 fish into 615 local waterbodies. Phot...
In 2021, the Division of Wildlife Resources stocked 9,616,203 fish into 615 local waterbodies. Photo: Division of Wildlife Resources

SALT LAKE CITY — Fish stalking? No, fish stocking. In 2021, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources stocked nearly 10 million fish into over 600 waterbodies. 

The Utah DWR stocks a variety of fish species in bodies of water throughout Utah each year. This year, the DWR 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.

Fish Stocking Photo: Division of Wildlife Resources

What is the need for fish stocking?

In a press release, the DWR explained that fish stocking in Utah is over a century old. Fish were first stocked in 1871 in the Beehive state.

“Stocking is a crucial management tool that we use to provide Utahns with the numbers and species of fish they desire,” said DWR Aquatic Section Assistant Chief Craig Schaugaard.

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

And, there’s evidence for the success of recovery efforts such as fish stocking operations.

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

The fish for fish stocking come from Utah’s hatcheries, or, sites where fish are produced for the purpose of release. The first Utah hatchery opened in 1899. Now the state has 13 hatcheries that provide the majority of the million pounds of fish stocked each year.

Fish hatchery provides Kokanee salmon for the Weber River. Photo: Division of Wildlife Resources

Fish stocking efforts adjusted for extreme drought

Each year, the DWR adjusts their fish stocking plans and procedures according to ecological and environmental needs. This year, the extreme drought was a major consideration. 

The press release explained the dangers droughts pose to Utah’s fish. Droughts result in lower levels and higher temperatures of water. Warmer water holds less oxygen than colder water. Low oxygen “can stress fish, causing poor growth and disease,” said the DWR.

To adjust for Utah’s drought, the DWR stocked fewer fish in water bodies with low water levels where fish survival and wellbeing were less assured. They also reallocated those fish from water bodies with low water to other water bodies not impacted by drought.  

Another method of fish population management is the production of sterile fish. Hatcheries intentionally produce some fish who are unable to reproduce as a way to control fish populations in various water bodies. 

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

  • Arctic grayling
  • Black crappie 
  • 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
  • Splake
  • Striped bass
  • Tiger muskie 
  • Walleye

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9.6 million fish added to Utah waters in fish stocking efforts