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UTAH LAKE — If Utah Lake is looking a little different lately, it’s because it's missing something — millions of pounds of carp.
Managers have passed the midway point in a cleanup effort aimed at wiping out 75 percent of the invasive species’ population in the lake.
Utah Lake Commission executive director Reed Price said Wednesday 17 million pounds of carp have now been removed over the past four years. The goal is to remove a total of 32 million pounds. The lake once contained an estimated 40 million pounds of carp.
“We see the lake once again being embraced by the community, and it’s going to take a lot of effort,” Price said. “We’re not planning to see a Lake Tahoe or anything like that, but it can get better.”
By removing so much of the carp population, managers hope to improve the water’s clarity and quality as well as the diversity of fish beneath the water’s surface.
Fifth generation fisherman Bill Loy Jr., said he believes he's already noticed a difference in the clarity of the water since the start of the carp purge.
“They’re just a pig,” said Loy of Loy Fisheries, which is tasked with removing much of the carp. “They eat up the bottom vegetation so it doesn’t grow. And in a shallow lake like this it just turns it into a mud puddle.”
Loy said his crew pulls out 20,000 to 60,000 pounds of carp per day.
“Sometimes you don’t know where the fish are and you’re chasing them all around the lake,” Loy said, his crew having already extracted a dump-truck load of carp Wednesday. “You can drive across on this (air) boat and you’ll see mud spots.”
The extracted carp are turned into compost or are sold to mink farms, Loy said.
At the current rate, Price said he expects the project to be completed by 2018 at the earliest.
Price said an improved Utah Lake could become a destination for fishermen from across the country.
Lake managers are seeking a $500,000 appropriation from the Legislature this session to pair with $200,000 in matched funds.
The project requires at least $700,000 every year for the next three or four years to continue progress at the current rate, Price said.