Illegal stocking of walleyed pike in Scofield Reservoir means the state's second-best trout fishery will be destroyed within five or 10 years, costing Utah anglers and recreational companies more than $1 million, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources officials say.
DWR director Bill Geer called a press conference Tuesday to announce biologists conducting a routine survey at Scofield on Thursday captured a four-pound walleyed pike in a gill net. Walleyed pike are not native to the area and feed on other fish.In several Utah reservoirs, they have wiped out fish such as trout and seem to show a particular fondness for trout, especially the fingerlings like those stocked in Scofield, second only to Strawberry Reservoir for trout.
Geer said he doesn't believe this was the only walleye illegally released into Scofield. "There's no doubt in my mind they will reproduce," he said.
DWR fisheries chief Bruce Schmidt said if the walleye have already reproduced, the trout population will probably be destroyed within five to 10 years. Geer said the division is "declaring war" on illegal transplanters who are willing to sacrifice the enjoyment of thousands of anglers to stock their own favorite fish species. He announced a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of any illegal transplanter.
Other reservoirs have been wiped out by walleye, which are stocked illegally by anglers who enjoy landing the large, hard-fighting fish. But DWR biologist said there are already several reservoirs, including Lake Powell, where walleye are well-established, where people can go to catch them.
"Walleye do not occur anywhere in the Price River drainage, and the only possible source for this fish is illegal transplanting," Geer said.
He denounced the "selfish inconsiderate people" who have stocked the pike.
In 1977, Scofield was treated to wipe out the fishery because of unwanted species. The treatment cost $100,000.
"What cost $100,000 to do in 1977 will likely cost a quarter-of-a-million dollars the next time around," Schmidt said.
He said Scofield is a "fast-family fishery" where non-experts can quickly catch trout. It is ideally suited for trout production, with a fish growth rate of more than 1 inch per month.
Scofield gets heavy use, drawing anglers from throughout the Wasatch Front. It is considered Utah's second-best trout fishery.