Blue Ribbon Fisheries identifies 11 locations, $440k to improve fishing locations

SALT LAKE CITY – Blue Ribbon Fisheries in Utah provide anglers with top-tier fishing opportunities throughout the state, and a recent allocation of over $440,000 toward 11 enhancement projects aims to maintain their exceptional quality and status.

The Blue Ribbon Fishery program, created in 2001 by Governor Mike Leavitt and formally established in 2005 through an executive order by then-Governor Jon Huntsman, provided funding for these projects.

Utah currently boasts 43 waterbodies, along with two mountain areas—streams, rivers, and lakes in the Uinta and Boulder Mountain regions—that have earned the prestigious Blue Ribbon status.

Since its inception, the program has directed more than $4.2 million towards 210 completed projects across various waterbodies statewide. Combined with additional funding sources, this totals over $46.5 million invested in enhancing angler access and fish habitat throughout Utah.

Blue Ribbon funds have contributed to the improvement of over 166 miles of streams and more than 10,700 acres of aquatic and riparian habitats in the state.

“The program was created because Utah’s leaders recognized that fishing is one of the state’s most popular and economically valuable recreational activities,” Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Sportfish Coordinator Trina Hedrick said.

“There was a need to recognize the best angling opportunities in the state and to provide additional funding for further improvements to keep them at that level. This program helps fulfill those needs.”

To attain designation as a Blue Ribbon Fishery, a waterbody must satisfy several criteria, including the presence of ample opportunities to catch large and abundant fish, a distinct fish population, and convenient public access, among other requirements.

Additionally, the Blue Ribbon Fishery program earmarks funds for enhancements to sustain the exceptional fishing experience and facilitate other waterbodies’ progression toward Blue Ribbon status after their selection for the Blue Ribbon ‘potential’ list.

The advisory council annually chooses improvement initiatives for different waterbodies, which are subsequently financed through a portion of Utah’s yearly fishing license sales.

“These waters are among the best fishing spots in Utah. They have been proven to provide not only great fishing, but also ideal habitat for the fish, economic benefits to the local communities, and an overall high-quality experience in the outdoors,” Hedrick said.

“They offer high fishing success rates (either through high catch rates or bigger fish) and usually have great amenities like boat ramps and fishing piers.”

A total of 11 projects were selected by the Blue Ribbon Fisheries Advisory Council this year, and they will be completed throughout the 2024-25 fiscal year.

Some of these projects include the construction of a new trail and fishing dock in the canyon area of the Flaming Gorge reservoir, which will provide additional and easier shore access to the reservoir. The dock will float and move up and down as water levels fluctuate. Roughly $45,000 will be allocated from Blue Ribbon for this project.

The program plans to fund the aerial restocking of cutthroat trout to replenish populations in the East and West Forks of Carter Creek on the north slope and Oweep Creek on the south slope of the Uinta Mountains. These locations underwent rotenone treatment to restore native cutthroat trout habitats. Given their remoteness, helicopter deployment proves the most efficient method for restocking these waterbodies. Approximately $57,000 is set aside for this endeavor.

The initiative aims to deploy fish habitat installations within Recapture Reservoir, enhancing conditions for panfish populations, particularly during periods of decreasing water levels. As reservoir water levels diminish, fish, especially juveniles, become more susceptible to predation. These habitat structures offer shelter during low water, safeguarding young fish from potential predators.

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