Adult Northern Pike Utah Lake Mike Slater 2016.jpg

Mike Slater holds an adult northern pike on Utah Lake in 2016.

A few years ago, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) placed a catch and kill order for all northern pike caught in Utah Lake. Since this species was illegally introduced into Utah Lake, the UDWR, as well as other water and fish managers including but not limited to the June Sucker Recovery team, have wanted to at least slow the population growth by removing as many pike as anglers could catch.

But, as things progress when unwanted species are illegally placed in a new body of water, it takes a few years for officials to decide just what can be done in the short and long term to manage the new species.

In a recent news release, a significant change in the current “catch and kill” order for northern pike in Utah Lake has been made. Quoting from the release, “anglers who catch a northern pike with a red tag should report it to the DWR and then let the fish go.”

As of Feb. 11, officials have begun tagging some of the northern pike in Utah Lake including some of its tributaries to be included in a five-year (minimum) study to track the “seasonal locations and movements of juvenile and adult pike.”

According to the news release, biologists will continue tagging fish for about six weeks, and hope to tag at least 50 fish that are 12 inches or longer. The tags are thin, red pieces of plastic attached to the fish, and indicate that transmitters have also been implanted in the fish so biologists can track them with GPS technology.

“We are asking anglers to release pike with these tags because the transmitters will enable us to track their movements, which will help us develop a control program in the future,” Keith Lawrence, DWR central region native aquatics biologist, said.

“As in the past,” continued Lawrence, “if anglers catch a pike without one of these tags, they are still required to remove the fish from the water and kill it. In that case, we request that they either bring the fish to the DWR office in Springville, if possible, or that they freeze it and call the UDWR so that arrangements can be made to pick up the fish. If a tagged pike inadvertently dies, we would still like to recover the fish so that the transmitter can be reused.”

If you catch a tagged northern pike in Utah Lake or one of its tributaries, please do the following:

Contact the DWR at 801-491-5658

Report the date and exact location where you caught the fish

Report the tag number

Release the fish unharmed

Regardless of how you feel about efforts to “save” the June sucker and the enormous impact the recovery plan has had on fishing in Utah Lake but more specifically, its tributaries over the past couple of decades, almost every drop of water that enters Utah Lake is managed by government entities with the specific charge to “recover” June sucker and provide proof that each stage in a sucker’s life is thriving in both the tributaries, estuaries, and bays throughout the lake.

Like it or not, the “invasive” (my opinion) way the government has managed Utah Lake won’t change until the June sucker has been “delisted” as endangered or threatened. Progress has certainly been made in this area but the challenges of recovering the sucker is far from over.

Anglers that don’t understand the inherent dangers of taking matters into their own hands and practicing their own style of “bucket biology” by introducing new species into lakes and streams, don’t realize that instead of helping the fishery they are actually hurting the chances for the government to do its job and eventually end the sucker recovery plan.

I urge all anglers to follow the changes made to the “catch and kill” order and cooperate with the ongoing study. Utah Lake is a precious resource and we can’t leave its management in the hands of a few people that can’t seem to obey the law.

Don Allphin can be reached at don@donallphin.com.

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