Salt Lake City — In an effort to enhance fishing and boost native fish populations, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources stocks a variety of fish species throughout Utah every year.
In 2020, the DWR stocked 8,241,139 fish into 626 local waterbodies. That’s a total of 1,170,330 pounds of fish!
The practice of stocking fish in the Beehive State goes back more than a century, as fish were first formally stocked in Utah in 1871. At that time, fish were transported from other states by train and were stocked into lakes along the train route. In 1897, Utah opened its first hatcheries and started raising trout locally.
“These original hatcheries were really impounded streams where we put fry that we got from the federal government,” said Craig Schaugaard, DWR Aquatic Section assistant chief over hatcheries. “We opened our first traditional fish hatchery — where we produced our own eggs and used raceways like we have today — in Murray in 1899.”
Over time, the DWR expanded its fish hatchery operations. There are now 13 facilities across Utah. The bulk of the fish stocked in 2020 — 7,043,305 of the total — came from these DWR hatcheries. The remaining 1,197,834 fish were transported from various hatcheries across the U.S., including hatcheries in Utah, Arkansas and Nebraska. Two federal fish hatcheries in Utah also provided some of the total.
“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 that they desire. Stocking fish helps ensure that the public has a great fishing experience.”
The DWR stocked 21 different fish species in 2020. This includes nine different cutthroat trout groups and five separate strains of rainbow trout. It also includes channel catfish, largemouth bass, black crappie, grass carp, wipers and bluegill from Arkansas and Utah as well as Arctic grayling raised from eggs received from Wyoming and tiger muskie from Nebraska.
The agency’s hatcheries produce multiple strains of some species, and some of the fish are sterile (meaning they can’t reproduce). Producing sterile fish is an important management tool that helps control fish populations in various waterbodies.
Several native species were also stocked in 2020, including Virgin River chub, bonytail chub and June sucker.
In recent years, June suckers have made an impressive recovery due to conservation efforts. They were proposed for downlisting in 2019. The final rule reclassifying June suckers from endangered to threatened was published at the beginning of the new year. The reclassification takes effect Feb. 3.