Commentary: Did you catch any fish this year?
If you caught fish this year, you are very lucky. However, the opportunity to catch fish in the future is at risk for you, your kids and your grandkids. While the snowfall so far this year has been great, no one is predicting that the drought is over. The other major risk is that your favorite fishing lake or reservoir may have fewer fish due to the ever-increasing fishing pressure from a growing population. We can’t control the weather, but we can control the fish population in our favorite waters.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) focuses on providing anglers with outstanding fishing opportunities. One aspect of DWR fishery management is the operation of fish hatcheries throughout the state. However, the current 12 hatcheries operate at or above their design capacity. More hatchery capacity is needed. One of the best ways to improve fish production — and meet the needs of a rapidly growing population that loves to fish — is to rebuild the Loa Fish Hatchery on its current site with the latest hatchery technologies.
The original Loa Fish Hatchery was built in 1936. It was shut down in 2014 as it was no longer practical to operate. Because of its design, underlying infrastructure and age, it cannot be upgraded to modern standards. Building a new hatchery on the same site will allow the DWR to take advantage of the area’s remarkable local springs and build a cost-effective, secure hatchery that produces 350,000 pounds of fish annually and returns clean water to the nearby Fremont River.
In planning the rebuild, DWR hatchery personnel have noted the extraordinary suitability of the current Loa hatchery site:
- Two natural springs with outstanding water quality will provide water to the rebuilt hatchery.
- The springs are the optimal temperature for raising large trout (12 inches or more) very quickly.
- The springs are a reliable source of water, even in the driest years. The ongoing drought hasn’t affected their water volume or quality.
Nearly 100% of the spring water that passes through the hatchery will ultimately flow into the Fremont river. By using the latest hatchery technologies, managers will be able to produce quality fish while conserving water and maintaining water quality in the Fremont River.
In 2021, DWR sold 640,000 fishing licenses! This means that about 20% of Utah’s population wants to fish. In addition to the licensed fishers, youth 12 years and under can fish without a license. So, the public clearly supports fishing as a great recreational opportunity. Fishing is also good business. It has been estimated that the fishing industry contributes over $1.1 billion dollars to Utah’s economy and supports over 7,500 jobs.
So what! The “so what” is everyone who likes to fish needs to contact their elected Utah state representatives. They will be discussing this next week. Send them a short note asking them to support replacing the Loa Fish Hatchery. If you are not sure how to contact them, just Google “Utah State Legislature” and Google will give you their website. From there, it is pretty obvious that you can find their email address or write to them from their website. You can also call their office.
Bill Quapp is a past president of High Country Fly Fishers, a Trout Unlimited chapter based in Park City.