From the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources:
SALT LAKE CITY — Blue Ribbon Fisheries are waterbodies that provide some of Utah’s most exceptional, high-quality fishing experiences. The program that designates and helps fund these fisheries recently allocated over $450,000 toward 17 projects aimed at enhancing these waterbodies so they retain their elite status.
There are currently 43 waterbodies and two mountain areas in Utah — streams, rivers and lakes on the Uinta mountains and on Boulder Mountain — that hold this Blue Ribbon status. The Blue Ribbon Fisheries program was created in 2001 by then-Gov. Mike Leavitt, and was formally established in 2005 through an executive order by then-Gov. Jon Huntsman.
“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 Randy Oplinger said. “There was a need to improve fisheries in Utah and to recognize the best angling opportunities in the state. This program helps fulfill both of those needs.”
In order to be named a Blue Ribbon Fishery, a waterbody has to meet several requirements and provide highly satisfying fishing and recreational experiences for diverse groups of anglers and outdoor enthusiasts. The waterbodies are selected and reviewed by the Blue Ribbon Fisheries Advisory Council, which is made up of a representative committee of 13 anglers appointed by the governor.
“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,” Oplinger said. “They offer high fishing success rates and usually have great amenities like boat ramps and fishing piers.”
High-quality fishing waterbodies are only one important part of the Blue Ribbon Fisheries program. The program also allocates funds for improvements to help maintain that quality experience and to allow other waterbodies to reach Blue Ribbon status. The advisory council selects improvement projects for various waterbodies each year, and those projects are then funded by a portion of Utah’s annual fishing license sales.
Seventeen projects were selected by the Blue Ribbon Fisheries Advisory Council this year, and they will be completed throughout 2023-24. The $450,000 in Blue Ribbon funding will be paired with other partner funds, totaling $1.3 million total toward these projects. Some of the projects include:
- Installing fish habitat at Pineview Reservoir: This project will install artificial habitat structures in the south arm of Pineview Reservoir, which will provide shelter from predators for young fish, particularly yellow perch and black crappie. The installation of this habitat should help increase the size of the perch and crappie in the reservoir, and will also indirectly benefit species such as tiger muskie that feed on the perch and crappie. Roughly $10,000 will be allocated to this project.
- Duchesne River bank stabilization: This project will help stabilize and decrease erosion on the bank of the Duchesne River, near Hanna. In its current state, the eroding bank is depositing sediment into the river, which is reducing the quality of the fish habitat in the area. Additional work in this stretch of the river will improve the overall quality of the habitat for the benefit of both fish and anglers. Roughly $25,000 will be allocated to this project.
- New bathroom at Strawberry Reservoir: This project will install new restroom facilities at the new Chicken Creek East parking area at Strawberry Reservoir. Roughly $42,000 will be allocated to this project.
Last year, 16 Blue Ribbon Fisheries projects and initiatives were completed. Over the past decade, the Blue Ribbon program has funded 173 projects and allocated $3.2 million toward improving these remarkable Utah fisheries. Due to partnerships and other funding options, a total of $26.3 million has been put toward Blue Ribbon Fisheries projects since 2012.