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Removal of Utah chubs from Panguitch Lake completed

May 05, 2006 - Removal of Utah chubs from Panguitch Lake completed

PANGUITCH - The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has completed a successful treatment of Panguitch Lake, which resulted in the removal of all fish in the reservoir. This action has been in the planning and preparation stage for several years and will pave the way for making Panguitch Lake one of the premier fishing waters in the state of Utah.

A DWR crew loads rotenone onto a boat at Panguitch Lake.
A DWR crew loads rotenone onto a boat at Panguitch Lake.

Panguitch Lake is located in Garfield County. Every year, thousands of anglers flock to its shores to try their luck at catching a limit of trout from the chilly depths of this high mountain lake. Nearly 60 percent of the anglers that utilize Panguitch Lake are from out of state, mostly from Nevada. As a result several "fishing lodge" type businesses have grown up around the lake that thrive on catering to these nonresident anglers.

At some time, someone introduced Utah Chubs to the lake. These nuisance fish were probably used as bait and then just released into the lake when they were no longer needed. Utah chubs are native to the Great Basin area but not Panguitch Lake. They are very competitive fish and displaced trout in the lake over time. At the time of the treatment, the trout population had declined to the point that less than three percent of the total fish in the lake were trout. Mike Ottenbacher, regional aquatics manager for the Division of Wildlife Resources, said, "When a lake gets to this point, fishing success drops to almost zero and there is really nothing to do but remove all the fish from the lake and start over from scratch."

The treatment was carried out using rotenone, a naturally occurring fish toxin that is imported from South America. (Rotenone is a natural plant product that completely bio-degrades in the environment and is not toxic to humans, other mammals, or birds at the concentrations used. It is approved for aquatic use by the EPA.)

The treatment began with final preparations being made at the lake on Monday, May 1. The first of the powdered rotenone was sprayed into the water early Tuesday morning, and by the end of the day six spray boats had deposited 70,000 pounds of the powder into Panguitch Lake.

Dead Utah chubs line the shore of Panguitch Lake after rotenone treatment.
Dead Utah chubs line the shore of Panguitch Lake after rotenone treatment.

Stressed fish began to surface almost immediately when the powder hit the water and soon it was evident that the chub problem at Panguitch may have been even worse than anticipated. As you walked along the windward, east shore of the lake you could see thousands of dead chubs. The trout numbered less that 20. Division of Wildlife Resources biologist and project leader Chuck Chamberlain said, "It is clear that this project was needed and it will be great to see Panguitch get back to full productivity when we get trout back in the lake this spring."

Panguitch Lake will remain fishless until the water detoxifies and will once again support fish. "We are going to make every effort to get fish back in as soon as possible. We will monitor the water quality and hope to get fish back in by the first part of June." Chamberlain said. He went on to say, "Right now it is a wait and see game. The lake will naturally detoxify in a few weeks. If the weather warms, it will happen quicker and we can get back to fishing even faster."

Normally, the lake would be left without fish for an entire season to assure that there were no chubs remaining. However, due to the extraordinary interest in Panguitch and for the economic interest of the lodge owners, Panguitch will be immediately restocked with 50,000 catchable size rainbow trout.

"These fish will ensure that the fishing will be great all summer long at Panguitch. We would invite everyone to come and give it a try on Free Fishing Day which is June 10." said Chamberlain.

The rainbows will be fun to catch and those that survive could reach one pound to 1.5 pounds by the early fall. It is also planned to put 200,000 fingerling rainbows and cutthroat into the lake at a later date. These fish will grow and become catchable size next year and assure the future of Panguitch Lake.

The entire project cost about $250,000 and used the services of more than 90 people. It was considered 100 percent successful and finished one day ahead of schedule. - Lynn Chamberlain