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WATCH OUT FOR ILLEGAL WALLEYE

SHARE WATCH OUT FOR ILLEGAL WALLEYE

Right now it doesn't amount to much more than a rumor, but Utah fishermen - and state fishing officials as well - are deeply worried that aggressive walleye fish may have been deliberately dumped into Strawberry Reservoir.

That may not mean much to non-fishing Utahns, but if true, the introduction of walleye could lead to the destruction of trout fishing in Strawberry. This would not only ruin one of the state's fishing treasures but would waste a $4 million effort in 1990 to clean the reservoir of trash fish and to restock the waters with trout.Walleye are so voracious that they tend to completely destroy other varieties of fish in the same waters. Only in certain conditions found in the East are walleye and other species able to coexist to some degree.

There is little hard evidence that walleye are in Strawberry, except for a report by one fisherman who reported catching a walleye there. Unfortunately, he ate and threw away the evidence, but concerned officials said he appeared knowledgeable about fish.

This unsubstantiated story has not been verified by the capture of any more walleye in Strawberry, but official concern is fed by the knowledge that walleye have been illegally planted in other Utah waters - Deer Creek for example - where they are rapidly destroying other fish.

And two men recently were arrested at a routine road block heading into the Jordanelle Reservoir. They were transporting four live walleye packed in ice.

Why would anyone plant such fish in Utah waters knowing they would destroy all other fishing? Some may have lived out of state where they have fished for walleye and don't understand the local impact.

Walleye are a popular fish back East and are good eating but are difficult to catch without live-fish bait, which is forbidden under Utah law. Anyone dumping walleye into Utah waters either doesn't know or simply doesn't care about the fishing disaster that occurs as a result.

Catching the perpetrators is difficult. Utah fishing enthusiasts can help by keeping an eye out for any possible dumping of walleye and by reporting any suspicious activity to fish and game officials. This is more than a fisherman's nuisance, it is a multimillion-dollar ecological problem.