First steps were taken here Monday to return fishing. Now, in what was once sterile water, there are fish . . . Around 150,000, which is about 150,000 more than were there two days ago.
It's still far short of the millions that once swam here, but as one biologist said, "It's a start."During informal ceremonies on the main boat ramp, Dee Hansen, executive director of the Division of Natural Resources, poured the first new fish into the reservoir since all were permanently evicted two months earlier.
Before the trucks quit dumping, sometime in the spring, more than three million fish will be restocked.
Two truck loads of sterilized rainbow, each between four and six inches, were planted in the reservoir on Monday. Two more loads were scheduled for dumping on Tuesday.
Next week, said project leader Charlie Thompson, crews will begin restocking around 300,000 eight-inch Bear Lake cutthroats.
"By spring these fish should be up around 13 inches . . . and be very vulnerable. If they make it through summer they should be a pretty good size fish. It'll take awhile, though, before this is a trophy fishery again," he added.
For four years, now, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has been trying to treat Strawberry. Finally, after the long wait, it was able to purchase enough rotenone - nearly a million pounds - to do the job.
In August, treatment of the tributaries began, and then everything moved to the reservoir for six full days.
It was felt then that the job was a success. Thompson said on the last day that he thought it was a total kill.
"We put in over 1,100 hours of gill netting, we did some electro-shocking and ran sonar, and we didn't come up with a fish. We did find four mountain suckers that got in from Currant Creek. That's not a problem, though. They only get to be about four inches and will actually be a pretty good forage fish if they get established," he said.
"But, no, we didn't find a chub or (Utah) sucker. We've never looked this hard for fish and found nothing. Usually, we don't look but find fish anyway."
The restocking actually started one week ahead of schedule. The reason is that reservoir rebounded faster than anyone thought it would.
The zooplankton, a source of food for fish, recovered faster than originally thought. Biologists also found the freshwater shrimp, another food source, recovered quickly.
Thompson said consensus was that the fish should be restocked as soon as possible. And, because of the abundance of zooplankton and shrimp, and the absence of competition from the undesirable fish, the new resident fish should do well.
After the stocking next week of the catchable cutthroats, the DWR plans to stock another 431,000 fingerling cutthroat and another 537,000 sterilized rainbow before the reservoir freezes.
In the spring, if hatchery figures are right, about 500,000 kokanee salmon will be planted and another 150,000 4- to 5-inch cutthroat.
If by chance the chubs and suckers should ever get back into the reservoir, biologists believe that the Bear Lake cutthroat and kokanee, both very voracious fish, should be able to control their numbers.
Sterile rainbow are being planted so they won't cross with the cutthroat and produce a fish that is not as adept as the Bear Lake cutthroat at outcompeting chubs and suckers.
The reservoir will be reopened to fishing on Jan. 1. Fishing isn't likely to be fast, but at least there will be fish to catch. Trout.