Photo courtesy by Don Wiley, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
Heber City -- Biologists have found white bass in the Provo River above Deer Creek Reservoir.
The adult white bass—12 inches in length—moved from the reservoir and into the river to spawn. Biologists say there’s only one way the bass could have ended up in the reservoir—someone with a bucketful of bass put them there.
After they confirmed the find, biologists and conservation officers with the Division of Wildlife Resources were frustrated and angry. And the feelings they have are spreading among rainbow trout anglers in north-central Utah. Deer Creek Reservoir currently provides excellent rainbow trout fishing. But dumping bass into the reservoir could change that in years to come.
The DWR, the Stonefly Society of the Wasatch and Utah Trout Unlimited are offering a reward of up to $7,000 to the person who provides information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who put the bass in the reservoir.
If you have information, please call Utah’s Turn-in-a-Poacher hotline at 1-800-662-DEER (3337).
Rainbow trout and white bass
“When we stock trout in Deer Creek, the fish are 10 inches long. By the following spring, many of them are 16 to 17 inches long,” says Roger Wilson, cold water sport fisheries coordinator for the DWR. “Deer Creek is a very productive trout water.”
But Wilson says a bucketful of white bass could change all that. “Rainbows and young white bass eat mostly zooplankton,” he says. “For the next year or two, there should be enough zooplankton for both of the fish. But white bass reproduce quickly, so it won’t take long for the white bass population to expand. Once that happens, there won’t be enough zooplankton to go around.”
And without enough zooplankton, the growth rate of the trout could slow to almost nothing.
Wilson says DWR biologists are conducting fish population surveys at Deer Creek this month. Once they’ve completed their surveys, they’ll have a better picture of just how large the white bass population has become. “Once we know that, we’ll look at options to try and control them,” he says.
Wilson says treating the reservoir with chemicals; fluctuating the water level during the white bass spawning season; blocking the tributary streams to prevent the white bass from moving into them to spawn; swamping the reservoir with sterile or hybrid white bass; and netting and removing as many white bass as possible are among the options biologists might use to deal with the bass.
“But all of these options are fraught with problems,” Wilson says. “And none of them may be totally effective at removing the bass.”
Located less than an hour’s drive from Provo and Salt Lake City, Deer Creek is one of Utah’s most popular trout fishing waters.
“Our biologists are trying to provide anglers with a variety of fish to catch,” says Walt Donaldson, fisheries chief for the DWR. “They do that by determining which fish will do the best in specific waters and then placing fish in those waters that won’t compete directly for food, space and cover.
“It will be discouraging if a single act undoes all of the hard work that’s happened to create a fishery like the one at Deer Creek.”
If you’re an angler, Donaldson says you have plenty of reasons to be upset when someone moves fish illegally. “Not only can it ruin fishing at your favorite water, it also forces us to divert funds from projects we were going to do to improve fisheries in the state to dealing with the problem instead.”
Donaldson says local communities lose too. “Communities in some parts of the state receive a lot of revenue from anglers who fish waters in their area. If anglers stop fishing those waters, the people in those communities will lose too.”
Fines, jail time
Illegally moving fish from one body of water to another is a class A misdemeanor in Utah. You can receive a fine of up to $2,500 and spend up to one year in jail. You can also be held financially liable for any damage you do to the fishery.
For more information, call the DWR’s Central Region office at (801) 491-5678.