Bucket biologists threaten fish in Millsite Reservoir, don’t make the same mistake

Apr 30, 2024, 7:00 PM

millsite state park sign shown, bucket biologists maybe threaten wildlife in the reservoir...

(Emery County Sheriff's Office)

(Emery County Sheriff's Office)

Editor’s note: This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom.

FERRON, Utah — The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources issued a stern warning this month after bucket biologists made waves at Millsite Reservoir.

If you look up the definition of “bucket biology” you’ll find this, from Bassmaster:

Someone who brings his or her preferred species of fish from one lake to another that may be more convenient or closer to home. Or maybe an angler who has leftover bait fish at the end of the fishing day and dumps them in the water.”

Either way, this act can result in the offender getting a Class A misdemeanor charge. And, it could cost the state thousands and thousands of dollars, not to mention lost fishing opportunities while it fixes the problem.

Millsite Reservoir is the latest example

I wrote about this problem a year or so ago but as we move beyond “ice off” and into what should be another productive fishing season in Utah, we have another case of bucket biology threatening the eco-system at Millsite Reservoir in Emery County.

This secluded 435-acre lake is the centerpiece of Millsite State Park just outside of Ferron Utah and part of the Ferron Watershed Project.


Rainbow and cutthroat trout make up the majority of fish stocked each year but anglers can also catch splake or an occasional tiger trout as well. 

Millsite is also home to the bluehead sucker, which the DWR called “a species of greatest conservation need” and whose literal existence and the balance of the entire ecosystem is now in danger due to the illegal introduction of the Utah chub.

I don’t happen to know of any anglers whose favorite species is the Utah chub so was this a malicious act rather than a fisherman’s dream of having their preferred species close to home?

We may never know the answer but suffice it to say it could result in the disruption or destruction of years of work done by DWR biologists to get and keep the reservoir a prime destination for anglers.

Years of work at risk

In 2014, the state mostly drained Millsite for dam repair construction. It wasn’t stocked from 2015 to 2018.

The following year, over 8,000 rainbow trout were planted. 

Then in 2020, another 6000 rainbows. Alongside the rainbows came the reintroduction of splake, which for those that don’t know is a cross between a male brook trout and a female lake trout.

These numbers and specific species are always by design to keep food sources and water quality at an optimal level to sustain the fishery while not further endangering species like the bluehead sucker. 

The alarm bells are again ringing about the dangers of bucket biology. So just in time for spring fishing, here’s the DWR’s full reminder:

  • It is illegal in Utah to move fish from one body of water to another. Illegally introduced fish have the potential to outcompete or prey on other fish species including endangered fish.
  • Bucket biology could also introduce disease into the waterbody because the fish and any water dumped may not have been certified disease-free.

Common sense

In its simplest form, it just doesn’t make sense for the angler who so loves a species or the convenience of a fishing hole close to home to potentially destroy an entire fishery necessitating years of possible rehab or treatment, not to mention the life of thousands of fish and the expense of tens of thousands of dollars.

Let the real biologists use their expertise to keep that spot ready for you and your kids or grandkids to catch that fish of a lifetime and memories that will last a lifetime. Tight lines everyone!

Tim Hughes is the co-host of Utah’s Morning News and the host of the KSL Outdoors Show on KSL NewsRadio. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram. 

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Bucket biologists threaten fish in Millsite Reservoir, don’t make the same mistake