The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) has achieved a significant milestone in its fish stocking initiatives for the year 2023, releasing a staggering 10,634,431 fish into various waterbodies across the state. This substantial effort, weighing a total of 1,171,098 pounds, is aimed at elevating fishing experiences for enthusiasts and fortifying native fish populations.
This robust stocking program, implemented across 604 different locations in Utah, demonstrates a noteworthy increase from the 8.2 million fish introduced in 2020. The numbers closely align with the stocking figures from 2019 and 2021, standing at 10 million and 9.6 million fish, respectively.
Facing challenges posed by drought conditions, the DWR has strategically shifted its approach by introducing fewer but larger fish in selected areas, enhancing the overall survival rates. Simultaneously, the division has augmented the stocking of smaller fish in locations exhibiting higher growth potential.
The tradition of fish stocking in Utah dates back to 1871, evolving from rudimentary methods such as transporting fish by train to the present-day sophisticated hatchery operations. Currently, the DWR manages 13 hatcheries statewide, with a substantial portion of the fish stocked in 2023—approximately 1,063,571 pounds—originating from these facilities.
DWR Aquatic Section Assistant Chief Craig Schaugaard shed light on the historical evolution, stating, “The original hatcheries were really impounded streams where we put fry that we got from the federal government. We opened our first traditional fish hatchery — where we produced our own eggs and used raceways like we have today — in Murray in 1899.”
Emphasizing the critical role of stocking as a management tool, Schaugaard stated, “Stocking is a crucial management tool that we use to provide Utahns with the numbers and species of fish they desire. Stocking fish helps ensure that the public has a great fishing experience. It also helps in the recovery of threatened or endangered fish. June suckers were downlisted from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2021 because of recovery efforts, which included stocking.” The DWR’s relentless efforts not only contribute to the enjoyment of fishing but also play a vital role in the conservation and restoration of aquatic ecosystems.