This year, Utah fishermen will catch, keep and hopefully bake, fry or broil eight million trout. For balance, state fisheries officers will transport to and plant in Utah waters slightly over eight million trout. One for one. Put and take. It's the foundation on which Utah fishing is based.
According to John Leppink, coordinator of hatchery operations for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, by October, 8.3 million trout - cutthroat, rainbow, brown, brook, lake and grayling - will have been spread around popular fishing waters.Before the year is out, projections are that Utah's 500,000-plus fishermen will have pulled about the same number out of rivers, lakes and reservoirs. And it is further estimated that of the eight million fish that anglers will catch and keep, 50 percent will have spent time in one of Utah's hatcheries.
The bulk of the fish planted by the DWR are called fingerlings, or trout roughly the size of someone's finger, and the smaller fry, which come out of the hatcheries counted by weight, about 300 to the pound.
The most visible part of the planting program, however, centers around the larger catchables, or trout more than a year old in the range of seven inches long. These are the fish fishermen can catch and cook the same day they are planted.
Leppink said about 1.2 million catchables will be planted this year.
Most of the fish planted in Utah are rainbow, followed by cutthroat. And, contrary to what many fishermen believe, not all brown and brooks are native. The DWR is also dabbling in hybrids. One of the more successful mixes has been the splake, a cross between a female lake trout and male brook. The splake has filled a much-needed gap between the chubs and lake trout in Fish Lake.
The DWR recently completed aerial planting of 1.5 million fingerlings in higher lakes. It will continue to make truck plants until well into October.
Some of the more popular waters, said Leppink, "like the lakes along the Mirror Lake Highway, and the streams coming out of the nearby canyons, like Little and Big Cottonwood, are planted almost weekly. Others, reservoirs that might be drawn down, or become too warm by mid-summer, we usually plant once in the spring. Some of the higher lakes, in the Uintas and Boulder Mountains, we might aerial stock with fingerlings every two to three years. It depends on things like use and competition."
The DWR also used some of the young hatchery trout to swap with other states for warm-water species. About 200,000 largemouth bass recently came from Kansas for an equal number of rainbow.
In the future, the DWR is looking at the possibility of raising and stocking catfish, and at allowing planters to put on an inch or two more before being released.