UTAH – The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) is warning Utahns that it is dangerous and against the law to release unwanted pet fish into local ponds or to transport fish you’ve caught from one waterbody to another after a number of recent illegal introductions.
DWR biologists conduct surveys of the state’s lakes and streams every spring and fall to collect information on the weight, condition, and population sizes of the fish that live there. However, this year, researchers in Utah found many fish that had been forcibly introduced into a number of different waterbodies.
Fish illegally introduced this year include Green sunfish at Yearns Reservoir in Sanpete County, Smallmouth bass in Settlement Canyon Reservoir in Tooele County, Redside shiners in Paragonah Reservoir in Iron County, and Largemouth bass in Newcastle Reservoir in Iron County.
“Illegal fish introductions seldom improve fisheries — instead, illegal introductions typically ruin fisheries and threaten the species that live there,” said Randy Oplinger, DWR sportfish coordinator. “It is also illegal in Utah and can result in a class A misdemeanor.”
Illegally introducing a fish into a pond, stream, or lake can have a number of detrimental repercussions on that fishery.
Some of these detrimental effects observed by the DWR include illegal fish species outcompeting and preying on other fish species, including sport fish, native fish and endangered fish species, introducing disease in the waterbody because they weren’t properly tested before being dumped into that waterbody, and negatively impacting water quality.
While it is unlawful to discard undesired aquarium fish into a body of water, it is also illegal to transport live fish from one body of water to another or to take them home.
When moving fish from one body of water to another, anglers frequently believe that they are introducing a species that will enhance the fishing at a pond, stream, or lake. This is rarely the case, and instead, these unauthorized arrivals frequently destroy a fishery.
“It is very expensive and takes a very long time — often requiring rotenone treatments that kill all the fish — to restore these waterbodies after fish have been illegally introduced,” Oplinger said. “Please help our native fish species and maintain quality fishing in Utah by never dumping a fish or being a ‘bucket biologist.’”
Utahns are encouraged to call 1-800-662-3337 to report any invasive fish they find, or if they see anyone illegally introducing fish into a waterbody or trying to relocate live fish. Residents can also contact their nearest DWR office if they have an unwanted fish or if they have concerns about a fishery in Utah.