Is there a fish in all the world worth $10,000? Apparently.
But at the possible expense of a multi-million dollar fishery? Apparently.Battle lines are being drawn and weapons, even as you read, are being put in place. Supporters and opponents are equally fixed in their stand.
On Oct. 1, Allied will hold a fishing contest at Strawberry Reservoir. The prize for the largest rainbow is $10,000.
Of concern, here, is what will a person be willing to do for that sum of money? The obvious answer is almost anything.
And, when you have a fishing water like Strawberry, at the prime of its developing years, there is a possibility for serious problems.
Steve Brown, spokesman for Allied, says every possible safeguard will be taken to mitigate any problems.
Concerned fishermen say nothing will stop certain damage.
The official stand of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is that they are comfortable with what's being done to protect Strawberry. The unofficial stand is that they're scared to death.
Brown says that once all the safeguards have been fully explained to people, concerns are greatly eased.
The reservoir, chemically treated in 1990 and now headed toward being one of the finest family fishing spots in the country, is dependent on establishing a hardy, propagating population of Bear Lake cutthroat.
Opponents say that in their zeal to win, some fishermen won't care. First, some won't be able to tell the difference, and some of those, in their rush to get the hook back in the water, will rip the guts out of the fish rather than practice good catch-and-release procedures. They contend a lot of fish, rainbow and cutthroat, will be lost through negligence.
Brown says rules define that this event is for the taking of rainbow only, and then only one fish can be weighed, and limits size to 16 inches or larger. Also, Allied will provide hooks free to encourage fishermen to cut their line rather than try and remove the hook.
Also, the DWR will hold classes the night before and the morning of to educate on catch and release, and species identification. Also, booklets telling the hows and whys, and showing pictures of the fish will be given out to all who register.
Opponents say that the lake can't take the pressure of thousands of fishermen. The small fish planted this past spring will be especially vulnerable. And, while weigh-in is only one fish, each fishermen can legally catch and keep eight rainbow.
Brown says entry will be limited to 3,500 fishermen. Entry fee is $10.
Opponents say it's ripe for corruption by those with corruptible minds.
Brown says anyone who would try to cheat would be stupid. Aside from the fact that Strawberry rainbow at distinguishable because they were sterilized before they were planted, and that game officers will be swarming all over the place, and that other fishermen will certainly snitch on any violators, rules require winners take and pass a polygraph test.
At this point, Allied is firm on holding the Strawberry 10,000. And, the official stand of the DWR is that it's "comfortable" with what's being done. Actually, it is powerless to stop it. It's almost certain, however, that when the next wildlife board meets, new rules will change that.
Opponents are, even now, looking into the possibility of stopping it by legal means. They say, too, Allied will loose a lot of customers over this. It's true, Strawberry has a large following of diehard supporters. If this does become a bad mistake, it's certain Allied will feel it.
Personally . . .
Too many people, too much money, too many opportunities for violations.
We all wish people were honest and fair, but reality tells us differently, especially when we're talking more money here than many people earn in a year's time simply for catching one fish.
Strawberry is much too valuable to take chances with, even to subject it to the most remote chance of contamination.
Risk another water first, one not quite so valuable. Test the market, test the fishermen, test the process before putting Strawberry at risk. Then, maybe, hold it at Strawberry, but make it for fun not for fortune.