As recently as last winter, fishermen questioned the decision to do away with all fish in this central Utah reservoir in order to get rid of the unwanted many. Fishing was frequently good and the fish, usually trout, healthy.
Official response to the 1989 treatment was always a firm, "wait and see!"Now, if the reservoir were treated yesterday, it wouldn't be soon enough for many active Strawberry users.
As predicted, when the reservoir waters reversed, were drained instead of filling, the number of trout caught dropped sharply.
Chubs and suckers, once an annoyance to only shore fishermen, are now starting to show up on the hooks of boat fishermen. And, once only an occasional catch of shore fishermen, the so-called trash fish are now common catches on everything from worms to hand-tied flies.
Two weeks ago the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources tried a test treatment of a small patch of Strawberry. It was, said Leo Lentsch, project leader at Strawberry, done for two reasons:
1. To test treatment equipment, some of it new and some redesigned.
2. To see if the rotenone would penetrate the thermocline as biologists predict it will. That is, will the chemical filter deep enough to reach all the fish. If it doesn't, total treatment of the reservoir will be impossible.
"At this point we're pleased with what happened. The equipment worked well. As yet, we haven't received tests back on the rotenone penetrating the thermocline. We believe, however, that it did," he said.
Among the equipment tested was a new loader that will take 800-pound bags of the chemical, open and then distribute powder rotenone onto a conveyor belt that carries it to a converted cement truck to be mixed with water.
Upgraded barges, with new rubber pontoons and twice the holding capacity (1,500 gallons), were also used.
"The success of the project will depend on getting the chemical out as fast as we can. The loader and the added capacity of the barges will help us do that," said Lentsch.
About 80 surface acres of water were treated. When biologist checked the results, they more chubs and suckers and fewer trout than what check last year produced, which were that of ever 100 fish netted, 95 were non-game.
Fishermen at Strawberry this week also reported that the chubs and suckers they were catching were large and healthy. Said one fishermen, "Bigger and fatter than any of the trout I caught."
This, too, has biologist concerned. Fishermen haven't been catching as many fish as they did last year at this time, but those fish being caught are bigger and fatter. No one is complaining of small fish.
Which means, said Lentsch, the 1.2 million fish planted last fall did not make it into the population. The fish being caught, he said, are from 1985 and 1986 plants.
Fishing is getting better at Strawberry and will continue to improve as temperatures continue to drop. Trout, kept deep by warm surface temperatures, are starting to move closer to the surface during cooler times, which means mornings, evenings and nighttime.
Boat fishing is still best. On Tuesday, for example, Mont Hughes of Spanish Fork went without a bite during an afternoon of fishing in Indian Creek Bay. Ed and Wilda Shepard of Salt Lake, trolling with pop gear and worms, left with eight large trout. He also reported catching some "large" chubs and for the first time hooking into a "big" sucker while trolling.
Float tubers, like Steve and Kathleen Barton of Salt Lake, have been doing well with flies in the mornings and evenings. Green has been the best color, in "Wolly Worm," or leach pattern, in Nos. 6 to 12, followed by brown and black.
Worms have also worked well, but are a favorite of chubs.
Ardent Strawberry fishermen are finding ways of keeping nongame fish.
According to Byron Gunderson of Anglers' Inn, fishermen have found that chubs and suckers do not hit the larger flies as aggressively as they will smaller ones.
Also, fishing with flies and a bubble (set about four to six feet apart) in the morning produces more trout. While suckers and chubs stay closer to the bottom, trout spend more time near the surface during cooler times.
When fishing with baits, choose minnows, three to four inches long, or possibly large chunks of chub meat, about an inch and a half long on a No. 4 hook, instead of worms. Trout, especially cutthroats, are minnow feeders. Also chubs and suckers have small mouths and have difficulty with the larger baits.
When fishing with minnows and chunks of chub meat, allow more time for fish to take the bait. Don't tug on the first movement of the rod. The technique will usually produce more trout then chubs or suckers.
Some of the best fishing for the biggest trout is at night. That's when the larger fish move into the shallower waters to feed.
Boat fishermen report good success fishing where deeper waters lead into bays six to eight feet deep. Fishermen can get reflective or fluorescent bobbers and fish with minnows or chub meat. This technique also works well for shore fishermen casting out into six to eight feet of water.
Good spots to cast from are where streams flow in or near river channels.
The DWR schedule calls for total treatment of the reservoir next August. That is, however, if enough rotenone can be purchased for the project. Projections are that it will take between 1.1 and 1.3 million pounds.
If the project is not completed in August, biologist believe they will have to go to an alternative plan. The level of the reservoir is rising and they fear that by 1990 the reservoir might be too large to treat.
Alternative plans, which include limited treatment and planting fish species that would eventually help control the chubs and suckers, would take years before any noticeable results could be seen.