Biologists find lots of fish during summer surveys

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Note: DWR fisheries biologists in northern Utah spend nearly 3,500 hours annually doing sport fish population surveys. This year's surveys of the High Uintas, Bear River and Cutler Reservoir had them smiling.

OGDEN - Summer is a busy time for Division of Wildlife Resources fisheries biologists. Annual surveys of fish populations for many of Utah's lakes begin as soon as the ice clears the water.

Pulling gillnets from ice water is a bone-aching experience, but most biologists soon forget their numb hands when a four-pound brook trout is weighed, measured and released back into a High Uintas lake for some lucky angler to catch.

Each year fisheries biologists in the DWR's Northern Region spend 3,500 hours surveying fish populations. That equals 420 days of effort, much of it jammed into about two-and-a-half months of time. For fisheries biologists, many workdays extend well beyond sun down.

Those long days were accompanied by long hikes this year as biologists surveyed many lakes in the High Unitas in the Provo and Duchesne river drainages. Their surveys showed good, healthy populations of trout in these high mountain waters. "We're getting reports from backcountry anglers that fishing is good in these wilderness lakes," says Randy Johnson, assistant hatchery manager at the Kamas State Fish Hatchery.

This year Northern Region fisheries biologists were also pleasantly surprised to find good populations of good-sized walleye in the Bear River and in Cutler Reservoir. They also found healthy populations of channel catfish.

"For every sport fish we found, there were probably 30 carp, so you have to work through that. But if you look for logs, vegetation and good back eddies, you should find the sport fish. That's where I'd go," says Aaron Webber, DWR fisheries technician.

It has been nearly 10 years since the Box Elder County portion of the Bear River was surveyed.

Cutler Reservoir in Cache Valley is the subject for fisheries research conducted by Utah State University. "I've known for some time that the walleye in Cutler Reservoir have been underutilized. This research from Utah State confirmed that again," says Craig Schaugaard, Northern Region aquatics manager.

For more information, call the DWR's Northern Region office at (801) 476-2740.