Wildlife officials in Utah frustrated with the ongoing problem of illegal fish stocking in lakes, rivers and reservoirs may require anglers to kill some nonnative species they catch.
The catch-and-kill regulations, proposed to take effect next year on two northern Utah lakes, are a new approach for Western states struggling with waters ruined by fish that don’t belong in specific waterways, such as the northern pike, smallmouth bass and yellow perch. The species occur naturally in some areas, but can destroy ecosystems in others.
The intent of the program is less about eradicating the problem and more to educate people about the impact, which the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources says is far worse than poachers who shoot big game animals.
Eliminating a non-native fish often requires draining a reservoir or poisoning all the fish in the effected part of a lake or river and can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, said DWR’s Drew Cushing.
“It’s a really severe problem throughout the West, and it seems like it just keeps getting worse,” Cushing said. “The catch-and-kill rule is unique, but we want people to understand that just about the worse thing they can do with these fish is release them.”