Bear Lake is getting more populated this week as the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources stocks 170,000 native Bonneville cutthroat trout into the northern Utah lake.
The trout, a favorite among anglers, have been growing in Kamas State Fish Hatchery and are now about 7 inches long. Scott Tolentino, a fisheries biologist in charge of the stocking, said these fish are bigger than before, and that is a good thing.
“We know some of them are going to get eaten," Tolentino said, "but the larger we stock the fish the better chance those will grow into an adult size fish - that’s a game we have to play with the numbers.”
About 60% of the fish will survive into adulthood, the less lucky ones falling victim to bigger fish, mostly.
“The Bear Lake Monster gets their share,” Tolentino said.
In the early 1990s, when trout stocking began, Tolentino said the division stocked almost a million fish per year. But thanks to concerted efforts from researchers and the public, the trout began sustaining themselves and maintaining healthier populations.
“It’s a good spot to be in - we are getting a lot of natural recruitment, able to stock less fish, yet we are still maintaining sport fishing for anglers - equal to or better than the past," he said. "So it is kind of the best of both worlds.”
The fish are pumped out of truck tanks into the south side of the lake, but can spread across the 109 square miles of water within just a few days.
Anglers can only keep the fish whose back fins have been cut and healed, signaling a stocked fish, and must release the trout who lived their whole lives in the lake. But, Tolentino said, if the trout continue multiplying, that may change.