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The 5 most unusual fish stocked in Utah Lake

By Spencer Durrant, Contributor | Posted - Apr 19th, 2018 @ 12:15pm

THE GREAT OUTDOORS — Nearly everyone in Utah knows how overrun with carp Utah Lake is. The giant carp population, along with the recent algae blooms in late summer, have combined to make the lake less-than-appealing to a lot of locals.

But Utah Lake wasn't always this way. According to research compiled by BYU and Division of Wildlife Resources officials, "Accounts of the early history of Utah show that Utah Lake was a productive, beautiful lake teeming with native cutthroat trout weighing 15 to 16 pounds."

That seems impossible now due to the current ecology of the lake, but Utah Lake was once a good enough trout fishery to serve as a viable food source for Native Americans and pioneers alike. Early settlers began using Utah Lake as a commercial fishery in 1849, and by the 1920s, the native cutthroat trout was nearly extinct, according to the report. That cutthroat trout was declared extinct in the '70s and remains so today.

Between 1849 and the 1970s, fisheries managers in Utah planted a variety of fish in an effort to cultivate a commercial fishery. Some of the fish planted may make you scratch your head and others may sound like a pretty good idea. Here are five of the most unique.

Note: All data on fish stocking, dates, and species, comes from the research referenced above, a scholarly article published by Brigham Young University.

Brook trout

Brook trout aren't native to this area of America: Their native range is from the Labrador and Newfoundland regions of Canada, down the East Coast to New York, then inland from the Virginias to Georgia and Tennessee.

Once they were brought out West, though, they were popular for their brilliant colors and great taste. From 1894 to 1903, at least 1,500 brook trout were planted in Utah Lake. By 1905, brook trout were only present in the Provo River. They died out quickly after that.

American eel

Have you ever wished you could get fresh eel right in your backyard? Well, for residents of Utah Valley between 1872 and 1887, that was a reality. American eel were planted mainly in some ponds along the Jordan River. However, since the Jordan River is the outflow for Utah Lake, eel were found within the lake shortly after being planted.

The largest eel on record was approximately 30 inches, taken from Utah Lake in 1894.

Silver Salmon

You read that correctly — silver salmon were once stocked in Utah Lake. About 325,000 "fry" (juvenile salmon that make great eating for other predators) were planted in 1927. The population eventually died out.

You can still find plenty of salmon in Utah, though. Strawberry Reservoir, Flaming Gorge, Causey Reservoir and others have stellar populations of kokanee salmon.


They might be a popular household aquarium fish now, but apparently, they were seen as a fish that could sustain a commercial fishery back in 1881. Roughly 130 adult goldfish were stocked in the Jordan River, and commercial fishermen took a few each year until the mid-1950s.

Arctic grayling

Grayling are one of the more unique fish in Utah, which now only exist in high-elevation lakes in places like the Uinta Mountains. Grayling are native to the cold streams of Canada and Alaska, but like brook trout, ended up in Utah due to their widespread commercial appeal.

Grayling never took hold in Utah Lake, despite 30,000 fry being planted in 1899.

Utah Lake has a rich history, even if its current state leaves something to be desired from a sportfishing perspective. What's the most unique fish you've caught from the lake? Let us know in the comments.

Spencer Durrant

About the Author: Spencer Durrant

Spencer Durrant is a fly fishing writer, outdoors columnist, and novelist from Utah. His work has appeared in Field & Stream, TROUT Magazine, Hatch Magazine, and other national publications. He's also the Managing Editor of The Modern Trout Bum. Connect with him on Twitter/Instagram, @Spencer_Durrant.

Spencer Durrant, Contributor

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