Don Allphin: Dissecting the new management plan for Scofield
A few years ago, almost half of the questions I received from anglers regarding fishing opportunities in Utah were about one reservoir — Scofield.
Now, I rarely field queries about one of the (historically) most popular “family fisheries” in the state. But, if the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) has its way, and its new management plan for the reservoir takes hold, fishing opportunities both new and old may very well revitalize Scofield and once again draw anglers to its scenic shores, wonderful facilities and great water.
Since 1958, water managers have been dealing with chub, a prolific species that lives up to three decades and overruns other sport fish in many of the reservoirs they occupy. Three times since then, rotenone has been used to “reboot” the lake and reestablish the trout fishery, but alas, these efforts while extremely effective in the short-term, have failed to provide a long-term solution to the problem.
In a recent and certainly unofficial survey, anglers reported catching 10 chubs to one trout. Unlike other “prey” species, chub are aggressive feeders and compete with other species to bite a hook. Since few, if any, anglers would consider eating chub, removing them or at least curbing their numbers has always been the goal of previous management plans.
The other huge issue is that when rotenone is used to “reboot” a body of water, all of the fish die. This is hard to watch and is quite expensive to administer. Each pound of fish in our reservoirs come with an embedded price tag. If there were any other way to reduce the chub population without killing all of the fish in the reservoir, our officials would most likely opt to give it a good college try.
The one thing I must say about the current UDWR team is that they are creative and relentless in their efforts to improve fisheries throughout the state. And, they try to do it in a way that is less expensive and less invasive than other commonly used methods. I continue to applaud their efforts. I still regret losing the eastern brook trout population in Strawberry after a rotenone treatment destroyed them. However, the ultimate result in Strawberry is a wonderful fishery that is well into its third decade without rotenone.
The passion the UDWR has for improving fisheries is welcomed at Scofield and I don’t believe it to be “desperation,” but a calculated and well-thought-out plan to reduce the chub population while giving anglers the better of two entirely different worlds. One, to provide a “put and take” fishery so that we don’t forget what fish taste like when few if any we catch in some reservoirs are outside the “slot limit.” And, second, to provide a true “trophy” fishery with the opportunity to catch the fish or fishes of a lifetime.
In order to accomplish both of these seemingly opposite goals, the management plan calls for continuing to stock rainbows, cutthroats, and tiger trout, but stock more “catchable” rainbows that anglers can catch and keep.
Next, they are introducing three additional predator species that target chub as part of their forage base. Tiger Muskie, wiper and sterile walleyes will be stocked specifically to reduce the chub population and to grow quickly and provide some trophy opportunities for anglers in fairly short order.
The key to this plan (in my opinion) is to control the numbers of the three additional predator species (since all three cannot reproduce) so that the chub population decreases but will still provide a solid and “sustainable” forage model for the lake long into the future.
Scofield has the potential to rebound and once again become a fishing destination for thousands of Utah anglers. And, although there is no guarantee that this plan will ultimately work, I applaud the effort and will keep hope alive and perhaps catch the odd tiger muskie, wiper or walleye in the process. I can’t wait.