It was a quiet opening. Not much in the way of fish or fishermen on opening day 1991.
At most, two dozen fishermen braved no winds, sunny skies and comfortable temperatures to sample the "new Strawberry."What they found was that the ice was thick enough, about eight inches, the outside conditions favorable to good fishing, but the fish somewhat shy.
Among the fishermen checked, none had fish or even slightly nibbled-on bait. But, as one angler said, "That's all part of ice fishing."
According to Leo Lentsch, leader for the Strawberry project for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, opening day went pretty much as expected.
He didn't expect a fast catch rate, for one thing.
"A lot of the fish are still too small. Also, there was a lot of food available when we planted the fish. I'm sure a lot of it is available. The fish aren't looking for food right now," he explained.
In the largest treatment project of its kind, the DWR removed all the fish from Strawberry in August.
In just six days over 900,000 pounds of rotenone powder, made from a root from South America, was spread over the reservoir.
The purpose was to remove undesirable fish, which in this case were Utah suckers and chubs. Fish biologists believe the suckers and chubs outnumbered trout in Strawberry by more than 10 to 1.
After more than 1,000 hours of gill netting, sonar checks and electro shocking, regional fisheries manager Charles Thompson and Lentsch, called the treatment a complete success. They said that in all their checking they found no fish after treatment.
In early October, the DWR began restocking fish. By November, more than 1.3 million Bear Lake cutthroats and sterilized rainbows had been planted at various points around the reservoir. About 400,000 fish were of catchable size, or about seven inches long. The largest number of the catchables were the Bear Lake cutthroats.
Biologists believe the Bear Lake strain of cutthroat will be able to control any possible reintroduction of chub or sucker. And because the cutthroat is so important to the future of the reservoir, fishermen at Strawberry are being asked to release any they might catch.
The reservoir officially reopened along with the coming of the New Year. And it appeared that by late Tuesday few of the 1.3 million planted fish had been disturbed.
To long-time Strawberry fishermen the empty hooks weren't at all discouraging.
Robert Lamb and his son, Jeff, of Salt Lake City, said they'd missed not coming to Strawberry and were simply happy to be fishing, "especially on a day like this."
The Lambs had been on the ice for about two hours at the most accessible arm of the reservoir, near the Strawberry ladders, and reported no action under the surface.
"We've followed what's happened here. I came up right after they treated it. Now I'm back to try fishing. When it's a trophy water again, I want to say I was here on the first day," he said.
"I did expect to see more people, more ra-ra after all that's happened. For me, though, it's just nice to be fishing again."
About a block away, Doyle Batty and his sons, Trenton and Dustin, of Orem, had been fishing about two and a half hours and had not yet had so much as a bite.
"We used to fish Strawberry all the time," the senior Batty said, "and did pretty well . . . and now that they've treated it we'll do well again. Not today, but someday."
The three had started fishing near the center of the bay in about 35 feet of water. After about an hour they moved in closer to shore.
"We tried everything. We staggered the poles, one was on the bottom, one was about half-way down and another near the surface. We thought we'd do better, but that's OK," he said.
Both parties were using bait - a night crawler tipped with a marshmallow.
Lentsch said pressure may pick up this weekend.
"That is, until a few come up and find out that it's not so red hot. This summer, fishing should be fair. After that it should start picking up. It's going to take some time," he said.