SALT LAKE CITY — During their annual spring surveys, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources biologists discovered two more bodies of water in Utah had fish illegally dumped into them.
Biologists discovered Utah chubs in Panguitch Lake and goldfish in Jackson Flat Reservoir near Kanab. They aren’t sure when either species was illegally introduced.
“Any illegal introduction of a fish into a water body is harmful and can have numerous negative consequences,” Randy Oplinger, the division’s sportfish coordinator, said in a statement. “Illegal fish species can prey on and outcompete other fish species. … They can also introduce disease and negatively impact water quality. It is very expensive and takes a long time — often requiring rotenone treatments that kill all the fish — to restore these water bodies after fish have been illegally introduced there.”
“Panguitch Lake had to undergo treatments in 2005 in order to kill and remove Utah chubs, so it is really frustrating that someone illegally placed them into the lake again,” said Richard Hepworth, the division’s southern region aquatics manager.
“We believe they may have been introduced because an angler was using live chubs as bait, which is illegal. Utah chubs compete with trout and can ruin a fishery, as we’ve seen in the past. Right now, we are hopeful that we have the right predator fish in place to keep the chubs from increasing to the point where they take over and we are required to treat the lake again.”
With the goldfish at Jackson Flat, biologists believe it was likely a case of someone reluctant to kill an unwanted pet. However, goldfish can be especially detrimental in an ecosystem because they are prolific spawners and can rapidly take over a body of water.
“They compete with the other species and eat all the available food,” Hepworth said. “It is also frustrating for anglers who are trying to catch the other species because they end up just catching goldfish. We hope the largemouth bass in the lake can keep the goldfish numbers under control. We will try and stock some additional largemouth bass this year to help with that effort.”
Anglers are encouraged to report any invasive fish species, or if they see anyone illegally introducing fish into a water body, by calling 1-800-662-3337.
According to the division, any person who illegally stocks fish in Utah waters may be criminally prosecuted and could face license suspension and thousands of dollars in fines and restitution.