SALT LAKE CITY — More than 8.2 million fish were stocked across various lakes, rivers, reservoirs, creeks and ponds in Utah during 2020, according to figures released by state wildlife officials Friday.
In all, they say nearly 1.2 million pounds of fish from 21 different species were stocked across 626 state waterbodies. Most of the fish were raised at state-owned fisheries, but fish were also imported from three other states according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
Biologists have stocked fish in Utah since 1871, and the state opened its first fish hatchery in 1899; operations have grown dramatically since then. A little over 7 million, or about 85%, of the fish stocked in Utah came from 13 state-run hatcheries.
The state also imported close to 1.2 million fish from hatcheries in Arkansas and Nebraska. These include channel catfish, largemouth bass, black crappie, grass carp, wipers, bluegill and tiger muskie. The state also raised Arctic grayling from eggs received from Wyoming.
A pair of federal facilities in Utah also sent the division fish to be released across the state that factored into the 1.2 million figure.
Per the DWR, there are a few reasons fish are stocked in Utah waterbodies. One such reason is that it allows anglers more opportunities to fish across the state. Rainbow trout, for instance, is a species that can adapt to Utah's waterbodies easily and is a fish people like to catch.
"Stocking is a crucial management tool that we use to provide Utahns with the numbers and species of fish that they desire. Stocking fish helps ensure that the public has a great fishing experience," said Craig Schaugaard, aquatic section assistant chief over hatcheries for the division of wildlife, in a statement Friday.
Other fish species are stocked for scientific reasons. Bear Lake cutthroat, for example, are typically released in areas where fish like Utah chub would otherwise overrun a waterbody without a predator in their habitat.
Then there are native fish that just need a boost to remain in the ecosystem following man-made changes to their environment. Virgin River chub, bonytail chub and June sucker were among the fish species released in native Utah water habits in 2020, according to division officials.
June suckers, which are native to Utah Lake, are considered endangered species for now. In 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services proposed moving the species from endangered to threatened species. The change will officially go into effect next month.