SALT LAKE CITY — High-elevation lakes may seem like an odd place to find tiger muskie, but there's an interesting reason behind finding the fish species in one High Uintas Wilderness and two southern Utah lakes.
State wildlife officials recently released tiger muskies into the three lakes as an experiment to see if they can improve fishing conditions in some of Utah’s high-elevation lakes.
In early July, officials traveled on horseback to Lakeshore Lake in the High Uintas and released a little more than 150 tiger muskies into the lake, which is located at about 10,200 feet in elevation. The species was also introduced to Donkey Lake and Moosman Reservoir on Boulder Mountain in Garfield County.
State wildlife officials hope the fish will eat some of the brook trout in the lakes, thus allowing for more food for the surviving trout and the ability for those trout to increase in size. Natalie Boren, northeast region sportfish biologist for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, explained it’s a project inspired by similar efforts in other states.
“We’re tailoring it and seeing if it will work in some of these stunted brook trout fisheries,” she said.
State wildlife officials started planning for it a few years ago. For example, in 2014, a committee of anglers, residents and other agencies assisted the division in developing a management plan to deal with a decline in brook trout sizes, as noted by an online Division of Wildlife Resources pamphlet. The agency was also working on plans for spots elsewhere in the state, including the High Uintas.
Biologists researched the areas where natural brook trout reproduction and “stunting” — fish that weren’t reaching full size — were happening. The 10-inch tiger muskies were then selected from Lee Kay State Fish Hatchery in Salt Lake City, Boren said.
The fish they chose were sterilized, making the new populations easy to manage without the concern of them getting out of hand.
State officials don’t expect much change in fishing this year. As Boren pointed out, they need to see if the tiger muskies will survive the winter, and then it will take time for fish to grow and carry out their task. If the project is a success, they plan to use it in other high-elevation lakes in the state.
“We’ll just have to see how it goes for the first couple of years, they’re going to need some time,” she said. “It’s an experiment to see if we can have this be a biological tool in our toolbox. We’re excited to see how it can work, but we also know it’s high elevation ... so we know they might not survive.”
In the meantime, Boren also asks that anglers release any tiger muskie they might catch in the three lakes they were introduced to and allow the fish to grow in its new habitat.