Provo -- When fish are taken from one body of water, and placed illegally in another body of water, bad things can happen.
Mike Slater, regional sportfish project leader for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says a population of northern pike, placed in Utah Lake illegally, is growing in size. Biologists have launched a research project to learn how the pike might affect sport fish and endangered fish in the lake. And they need your help:
Also, on weekdays—from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.—you can drop northern pike off at the DWR’s Central Region office, 1115 N. Main St. in Springville.
If it isn’t convenient to travel to the park or the DWR office, you can place the pike in your freezer at home. Then, call the DWR at 801-491-5678. A DWR biologist will make arrangements to get the fish from you.
If you bring a pike and information about where you caught it to either location, or if you call the DWR and have a biologist pick the fish up from you, you’ll receive a fishing lure from the Salt Lake County Fish & Game Association as a token of appreciation.
Slater says early spring is a great time to catch northern pike in the lake and in the tributaries that flow into the lake, such as Hobble Creek and the Provo River.
Historically, these tributaries were closed to fishing in the spring to protect walleye that spawn in them, but they are now open to give anglers the opportunity to catch northern pike. The current regulation allows fishing in the tributaries, but they are closed to the possession of walleye from March 1 through the first Saturday of May.
There is no limit on northern pike. Pike may not be released; you must keep all of the pike you catch.
Slater says recording the date and the location where you catch pike will help biologists determine where the pike are spawning and which areas in the lake they’re using. The fish you donate will be given to a researcher at Utah State University. His research will help biologists learn more about northern pike in the lake, including which fish the pike are eating and how many they’re consuming.
The research project started last year. Several anglers helped by providing northern pike to the DWR and the researchers. However, researchers need about 300 to 400 additional pike. “Any northern pike you catch and donate this year will help the study immensely,” Slater says.
If you catch a northern pike, and you don’t want to donate it, please remember that you must kill it. “By law,” Slater says, “northern pike caught at Utah Lake may not be returned to the lake alive. Every northern pike that’s caught must be killed.”
Slater says northern pike sit at the very top of the food chain. “They eat anything they want,” he says. “Adding a predator like this may hurt the bass, walleye, catfish and panfish populations that already live in the lake.”
In addition to the many sport fish in the lake, June suckers—a fish listed as endangered on the federal Endangered Species list—also live in the lake.
Slater says Utah Lake is the only water in the world where June suckers live. “The illegal introduction of northern pike could negate much of the work that has been done to recover the June sucker,” he says. “Work to help June suckers has also helped sport fish in the lake. Whoever put northern pike in the lake did a selfish and thoughtless thing.”
If you have questions or need information, call the DWR’s Central Region office at 801-491-5678.