DWR reminding public to not 'ditch a fish' after walleye illegally introduced at Strawberry Reservoir
Salt Lake City — The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is reminding the public that it is both illegal and harmful to introduce new fish species into a waterbody in response to an illegally released walleye recently caught at Strawberry Reservoir.
The DWR was contacted on Dec. 21, 2023 by an angler who reported catching a walleye at Strawberry Reservoir. The DWR verified the report and believes that someone illegally introduced the fish species recently. Only one walleye has been reported thus far.
In Utah, it is illegal to move live fish from one waterbody to another or to take them home alive. It is also illegal to dump unwanted aquarium fish into a waterbody. All of these actions can result in a class A misdemeanor.
When a fish is illegally introduced into a pond, stream or lake, it can have several negative effects on that fishery, including:
- Illegal fish species can prey on and outcompete other fish species, including sportfish, native fish and endangered fish species.
- The new fish can introduce disease because they weren't properly tested before being dumped into that waterbody.
- The new fish can negatively impact water quality.
"It is very expensive and takes a very long time — often requiring rotenone treatments that kill all the fish — to restore a waterbody after fish have been illegally introduced," DWR Sportfish Coordinator Trina Hedrick said. "We are planning to begin extensive monitoring of the fishery in the spring, looking for walleye in potential spawning locations when they would likely be congregating. We don't know whether any other walleye are currently at Strawberry Reservoir, so we are asking anglers to look for them where they would naturally be congregating and to report any walleye to us. Spring surveys and assistance from the anglers should help us understand the extent of the problem better. Please help our native fish species and maintain quality fishing in Utah by never dumping a fish or being a 'bucket biologist.'"
Strawberry Reservoir is a Blue Ribbon Fishery and provides some of Utah's most exceptional, high-quality fishing experiences. Each year, the DWR stocks cutthroat trout, rainbow trout and kokanee salmon at Strawberry Reservoir.
"Walleye could easily disrupt our ability to manage the current trout and salmon populations at Strawberry Reservoir through competition and direct predation as a predator fish," DWR Fisheries Biologist Alan Ward said. "We conduct extensive surveys, and 98% of anglers have provided feedback that they prefer the current trout and salmon that we provide over other species, including walleye. We are worried that the actions of one selfish angler could damage the years it took to build this fishery into something that the majority of the public want."
Anglers who catch any additional walleye at Strawberry Reservoir should immediately kill them and report it to the DWR at 800-662-3337. Anglers should include a photo of the fish and the GPS coordinates of where it was caught. Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife are also offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of whoever illegally introduced walleye into Strawberry Reservoir.
Utahns are encouraged to call 800-662-3337 to report any invasive fish they find, or if they see anyone illegally introducing fish into a waterbody or trying to relocate live fish. Utahns can also contact their nearest DWR office if they have an unwanted fish or if they have concerns about a fishery in Utah.
Learn more about the negative consequences of illegal fish introductions by visiting the "Don't Ditch a Fish" page on the DWR website.