DWR, Ashley National Forest reminds public to stay out of areas during upcoming stream treatments in High Uintas
Vernal — The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources will once again be coordinating with the Ashley National Forest to treat two drainages in the High Uintas in an effort to help restore native Colorado River cutthroat trout.
From 2019 to 2021, DWR biologists treated the Potter Lakes and East Fork Carter Creek areas on the north slope of the Uintas with rotenone. Rotenone is a natural substance that comes from the roots of a tropical plant in the bean family. It's a respiratory toxin to fish, but it is not dangerous to people, pets or other wildlife, especially in the extremely low quantities that biologists use to treat streams and lakes. However, there will be a lot of crews and equipment in the area during treatments, so it is recommended that the public stay out of the area during the treatments so the DWR can safely and effectively complete the projects.
This year, biologists will be conducting treatments in the following areas in the High Uintas:
- West Fork of Carter Creek (north slope)
- Weyman Creek (north slope)
- Beaver Creek (north slope)
- Oweep Creek drainage (south slope)
- Porcupine Lake (south slope)
Oweep Creek is a stream complex in the Lake Fork drainage in the High Uintas wilderness. In May, the DWR increased the daily limit to 16 fish at Oweep Creek and its tributaries to allow anglers to catch and keep more fish prior to the treatments.
The DWR will chemically treat the Oweep Creek area from Aug. 1–5. The West Fork Carter Creek treatment will take place on Aug. 31. However, project cleanup will continue for several days in each area.
"The temporary closure only affects treated waters and prohibits the public from entering the treated water and obtaining drinking water from sources of the treatment area. All hiking trails and other access will remain open to public use," DWR Northeastern Region Outreach Manager Tonya Kieffer-Selby said. "The treatment areas will be well signed and will reopen after the treatment process is over and rotenone levels are no longer detectable in the streams. We estimate the Oweep Creek drainage will tentatively reopen to the public on Aug. 7, and the West Fork area should tentatively reopen on Sept. 4."
A series of two treatments is standard protocol for effective cutthroat trout restoration, so biologists will treat Oweep again in 2023. However, treatments on the West Fork of Carter Creek should be finished this year.
Why are rotenone treatments done?
In addition to increasing the diversity of angling opportunities, these project treatments will help the native fish and ensure cutthroat trout populations improve. Habitat loss, breeding with non-native trout and competition from non-native trout have caused dramatic declines in native cutthroat trout populations around the West, leading to concerns about the species' future.
"As the trustee and guardian of wildlife in Utah, we're conducting Colorado River cutthroat trout restoration work across the fish's native range," DWR Regional Sportfish Biologist Bryan Engelbert said. "The activities will protect the species, while also providing people with great areas to fish for these native fish."
The treatments will remove brook and rainbow trout currently found in the streams. Without intervention, biologists predict the brook trout populations could completely replace cutthroat trout in these areas in less than 20 years.
After the treatments
Because this is the first year of the Oweep treatment, fish will not be restocked this year. Fish are tentatively scheduled to be restocked in 2024; however, it is possible a third treatment will be necessary in 2024.
Pending a second successful treatment of Carter Creek this fall, fish are currently scheduled to be restocked into the drainage at the end of August 2022. The lakes in this drainage that were treated last year will also be restocked, including Lamb, Mutton and Ram lakes.
The West Fork Carter Creek treatment is part of a larger effort to treat the upper portions of streams connected to the Sheep Creek canal to create a meta-population for cutthroat trout that will contribute to conservation of the species and keep them from being listed under the Endangered Species Act.
Even though brook trout are being removed from the treatment areas, anglers can still find them in hundreds of streams and lakes throughout the Uinta Mountains. Biologists are also working to include these treated areas in the interactive Utah Fish Planner map on the DWR website, so the public can easily find waters to fish by species.
The DWR is currently working on restoring native cutthroat trout to specific drainages in the Uinta Mountains. Over the long term, the DWR plans on providing abundant angling opportunities for several species, including both brook trout and cutthroat trout, in the Uinta Mountains.
If you have questions about the treatment, call the DWR's Northeastern Regional Office at 435-781-9453.