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Rainbow trout returning to Bear Lake

Rainbows will be stocked for the first time in 24 years

Garden City — For the first time in 24 years, you might feel a rainbow trout tugging on your fishing line at Bear Lake.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources will stock about 5,000 rainbows into the lake on May 25, 2010. About 5,000 additional rainbows will be stocked before the July 4 weekend.

The rainbow trout—which will be about 10 inches long when stocked—are not your regular rainbows. They're sterile rainbows that can't reproduce.

Because a limited number of sterile rainbows are available this year, and because Bear Lake is a large lake, it would be difficult for anglers to catch them if the fish were stocked in several places. For that reason, all of the 10,000 fish will be stocked at one place—the Bear Lake State Park Marina near Garden City.

Scott Tolentino, UDWR aquatic project leader at Bear Lake, says the rainbows will feed mostly on terrestrial insects that blow onto the surface of the water. "They should be readily available for just about anyone who has a fishing rod," he says. "Both shoreline and boat anglers should find good success."

Good methods to catch the rainbows with include using Powerbait, worms, flys or lures, such as small spinners and spoons.

Tolentino says rainbow trout should occupy a niche that fish aren't using at Bear Lake. And that niche is the shoreline.

"The water temperature along the shoreline gets too warm in the summer for cutthroat trout, so they move off shore into deep water," Tolentino says. "Bear Lake is a deep lake. The only anglers who can catch cutthroats in the summer are those who have specialized equipment, such downriggers and sonar that allow them to target cutthroat trout and lake trout in deep water."

Tolentino says rainbow trout should fill that void. "It's rare to find rainbow trout very far off shore or in deep water," he says. "They should hang out along the shoreline."

Tolentino says the DWR first stocked rainbow trout in Bear Lake in the late 1800s. "Both Utah and Idaho stocked rainbows regularly until 1986," he says. "That's when genetic studies showed the rainbows might be breeding with cutthroat trout in the lake. That hybridization posed a risk to the pure genetics of the Bear Lake Bonneville cutthroat trout in the lake."

In 1986, stocking was suspended indefinitely. "But thanks to the ability Utah's hatcheries have to rear sterile rainbow trout, the threat that rainbow trout will hybridize with the native cutthroat trout is gone," Tolentino says.

Tolentino is excited to provide anglers with a new summertime opportunity at the lake. "If the return of the stocked rainbow trout is comparable to other waters where catchable-sized trout are stocked, then stocking may continue in future years," he says.

DWR technicians will collect information from anglers about the number of fish they catch and keep. "The rainbow limit at the lake is two fish, and I encourage anglers to keep up to their limit," Tolentino says. "Most of the rainbows in Bear Lake probably won't make it through the winter."

For more information, call the DWR's Bear Lake field office at 435-946-8501.

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