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AMERICAN FORK — As the weather gets warmer, people will start heading out to enjoy many of Utah’s waterways. At Utah Lake on Monday, thousands showed up. No, we’re not talking about people, but a unique fish that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.
The shores of Utah Lake was Dale Fonken’s office on Monday.
“I like being outside, so it’s definitely a great career,” he said.
Dale Fonken is a biologist with the Division of Wildlife Resources.
“Today, we’re stocking some June suckers from the fishery’s experiment station in Logan,” he said.
In late February, about 2,000 endangered June suckers were injected with tiny, coded tracking tags. However, Fonken has been studying this species far longer. He’s been working on the project for about two years.
“I’ve been really getting a pulse on the fish,” he said.
The June sucker once flourished in the area.
“Back when the settlers were first around, it was the most abundant fish in the lake,” he said.
However, in recent years their population dwindled to only about 300.
“They’re kind of a remnant of old Lake Bonneville,” he said.
It’s a little fish that plays a big role in this ecosystem.
“Every functional ecosystem needs a balance of predators and prey,” Fonken explained.
The June suckers fit right into the middle of the food chain, without them other predator fish wouldn’t be able to thrive. Fonken and the others at the Division of Wildlife Resources hope to see the population thrive. By the end of the day, a total of about 2,000 fish were released. Each one has a microchip so their survival and attempts at reproduction can be monitored.