SYRACUSE — Utah wildlife officials are trying to figure out who illegally dumped 260 white bass in a remote area in Davis County earlier this month.
"We see wasting of protected wildlife every now and then, but nothing to this magnitude," Utah Division of Wildlife Resources conservation officer Trevor Doman told KSL.com Thursday. "I’ve never seen this many fish wasted like this."
Doman was dispatched to an area on West Gentile Street near Syracuse on May 18 after photos of a large pile of fish were posted on social media and the agency received tips about it. He found the pile and counted 260 fish; about half had been gutted and had signs that someone attempted to field dress them.
Based on the number of fish, he theorized that perhaps multiple people were involved. Doman also thinks that the individual or group that caught the fish originally intended to filet them but realized they had too many fish.
"I think that maybe on the way home from wherever they caught these at, they just decided, ‘That’s a lot of fish. I don’t want to deal with all this work” — because that is a lot of fish," Doman said. "I have a feeling they thought: ‘This is just the Wild West where nobody is around. Dump them and not worry about it anymore.’"
Utah doesn’t have a limit on how many white bass an angler can catch; however, the species is protected and letting them go to waste is illegal. The state restitution fine for illegally dumping white bass is $10 per fish, which means the penalty, in this case, is $2,600. It also means it's a potential felony-level case, Doman explained.
While individual poaching cases involving big game might be more notable, trophy and non-trophy fish accounted for more than half of Utah’s 1,050 illegally killed animals in 2019. The number of fish found illegally dumped near Syracuse is almost the same amount as the 280 non-trophy fish illegally killed in all of last year.
Doman recalls one case in which a fisherman caught close to 200 fish at a location where there was a limit to how many fish someone could reel in, but he can’t remember investigating a case where so many fish were left to waste. He’s hoping that someone may have either seen something related to this case or possibly even overheard someone brag about catching a large number of fish in northern Utah and around mid-May.
Anyone with information can call the state’s UTiP hotline at 800-662-3337 or Doman, who is assigned to the case, at 385-242-6357. People can also report it on the agency's website. DWR officials said requests for confidentiality will be respected and there is a possible reward for information leading to a conviction.