Anglers saving fish at Steinaker

VERNAL — This summer and fall, Steinaker Reservoir north of Vernal will be reduced to a ‘mud puddle’ as important repairs are made to its dam. Any fish not caught and removed from the reservoir will likely be lost.

To try to save as many bluegill as possible, the Division of Wildlife Resources needs your help. On June 7, 8 and 10, a bluegill ‘salvage’ event will be held. Anglers are asked to turn out those days, catch bluegill and then give the live fish to DWR biologists who will also be catching bluegill at the reservoir during the event. The biologists will transport the fish to holding ponds where the fish will remain until the reservoir refills. After it refills, biologists will place the bluegill back into the reservoir to help jumpstart the fishery.

To learn more about the three-day event — including the time of day when biologists need the bluegill in order to transport the fish — visit

To add some extra fun to the salvage effort, on June 9, the DWR, Utah State Parks and the Bureau of Reclamation will hold a free bluegill fishing tournament at Steinaker. June 9 is Free Fishing Day, so you won’t need a fishing license to participate. You can learn more about the tournament and register to participate online.

“The four-day event, including the tournament, is a chance for the public to join with us to save fish that will be lost if we don’t remove them from the reservoir,” says Tonya Kieffer, regional conservation outreach manager for the DWR.

One event already held

To try to save as many fish as possible, the DWR held a largemouth bass ‘salvage’ event in May. Natalie Boren, regional aquatics biologist for the DWR, says more than 50 volunteer anglers — from all over Utah — showed up to help.

“They caught bass from their own personal boats and from the shore,” she says, “Unfortunately, with the water temperature hovering in the mid 50s, catching fish proved difficult. That’s why we’re asking for the public’s help again in June.”

The June 7–10 event will mostly focus on collecting bluegill, but biologists will also take any largemouth bass anglers catch. “We’re looking for volunteers — both boat anglers and shore anglers — to help us out,” Kieffer says.

In addition to helping jumpstart the fishery when Steinaker refills, those who participate will help anglers who enjoy fishing in community ponds along the Wasatch Front.

“DWR biologists from the Wasatch Front are coming out to assist us,” Kieffer says. “In return, they’ll receive up to 4,000 bluegill that they’ll transplant in the community ponds.”

Free tournament on June 9

Chante Lundskog, regional wildlife recreation specialist for the DWR, says the June 9 tournament will be a fun way for families, no matter their skill level, to get out and have fun while helping the fishery. “Prizes will be awarded to those who catch the most bluegill and the largest bluegill that day,” she says.

Up to 150 anglers can participate. Registration will close June 6 at midnight or whenever all of the spots are filled, whichever comes first. You can see official rules for the tournament when you register online.

“The tournament is free,” Lundskog says, “but if you want to enter Steinaker State Park, you’ll need to pay the entrance fee.”

Recovering the fishery

Kieffer says the drawdown will take Steinaker Reservoir past dead pool, and a complete fish kill is expected. “After repairs are completed and the reservoir fills back up,” she says, “we’ll restock it with bluegill, rainbow trout and brown trout. Largemouth bass will be added a year after refilling begins.”

Kieffer reminds anglers that it’s illegal to move live fish from one body of water to another. Only DWR biologists can do that.

If you have questions about the June 7–10 event, call Boren at 435-219-2644 or Lundskog at 385-225-4322.