Protect Boulder Mountain Fishing

Dear Editor:

I read with great interest your May 5, '95 issue on Boulder Mountain. I have spent a lot of time over the last nine years hunting and fishing on the mountain. Last year I fly fished some beaver ponds and small streams on the south side. In one of those ponds I experienced one of the best days of fly fishing I have had. The pond wasn't very big, only about half an acre, but held a lot of fish. I caught some really nice brookies about 12 to 15 inches long, but the best fish of the day was when I caught and released a 20 inch Yellowstone cutthroat that I just couldn't believe could live in that size beaver pond. The small stream was also fun with lots of smaller cults and brookies that were very spooky but a real challenge to catch.

Last fall I started hearing rumors that the DWR was planning to kill the fish in this area and to plant Colorado cutthroats. I couldn't understand why they would want to destroy such a fantastic fishing opportunity and hoped it was just a rumor. When I read your May 5 magazine I found out that my fears were real and that the DWR had indeed poisoned the very area I had such a fun time on last year. I decided to make a trip over Memorial Day to see the damage for myself. I felt like crying when I saw what they had done. The beaver pond where I had caught the 20 inch cult had its dam broken and drained. Where once there was a half-acre example of the best of Boulder Mountain can offer, there was now a half-acre of mud with a small siltchoked stream running through. The other ponds in the area had the same thing done to them and the small stream was so choked with mud I don't know if anything could ever live in it. Apparently it was all poisoned because not a fish could be seen (though I don't see how anything cold live in the dirty water now).

I can not for the life of me understand why the DWR would do some thing like this. If they want to expand the range of the Colorado cutthroat fine. (I read in the magazine that they now are not going to plant Colorado cults and are going to plant yellowstone cults that were in the area already, so what was the point of poisoning everything?) But why did they have to bust up the beaver ponds? This area was one of the prettiest places in the state and now its nothing but a mud pit. Hopefully the beavers will repair their dams and the ponds can come back to what they used to be. Yellowstone cults supposed to be planted and brook trout are supposed to still be in the drainage, so maybe over time nature can replace what the DWR has destroyed.

I think some kind of long-term management strategy needs to be worked out for the fishing on Boulder. It's becoming too popular of a place to manage like the rest of the state. The area is too pristine and much too beautiful to let go to waste. Reducing bag limits on the whole mountain would be good policy, and on some waters a catch and release program might help preserve the mountain and its fish population. I hope that 10 years from now I can still go down to Boulder Mountain and catch a 20-inch cult from a beaver pond, or a monster brookie from one of the many lakes. This place is one of the state's most precious resources and should be treated as such.

Thanks for a great magazine.

- Mark Memmott, Bluffdale

Editor's response: We agree that Boulder Mountain needs more protection. A four-fish limit should be enacted for most lakes, and some should be managed for trophy fishing. We also agree that the destruction of those beaver ponds was tragic, and no good has come from it.

The DWR does have a long-term management plan for Boulder Mountain. Where the agency falls short is in building public awareness and support for that plan. The DWR needs to do much better at public relations.

Utah Fishing & Outdoors supports the idea of gradually re-introducing the Colorado cutthroat into waters where it was native. It's a beautifulfish which provides great sport. It evolved in those waters, and is well suited for life there. It should do at least as good there as the Yellowstone cult has, and perhaps better. To move that proposal forward, it will be necessary — over time — to treat and restock waters which supported viable populations of Yellowstone cults and/or brook trout.

Utah needs an aggressive program to extend the range of the Colorado cuts, if only to keep it from ending up on the endangered or threatened list. One of the surest ways to destroy trophy trout fishing on Boulder Mountain would be to invite the federal government to manage those waters for endangered fish.

DWR biologists are aware that beaver and their dams contribute to the health of a stream. Beaver dams produce wet lands. Wetlands contribute to steady flow, silt free streams, and prevent flooding and erosion. All over the state beaver dams have been destroyed, beaver allowed to die. Dried up wetlands, silt in streams, and floods are the result Erosion destroys stream banks, ducks and geese move away, and trout populations diminish both in size and numbers.

Unfortunately, when poisoning a stream it is usually necessary to breech the beaver dams. If you don't, it is almost impossible to achieve a complete fish kill. If left alone, the beaver will generally repair a dam within a matter of months, and suffer no permanent damage. By fall, those mud flats should again be covered with water.

DWR managers well understand the dynamics of a trout stream. At times they are frustrated because public opinion interferes with their ability to manage a water according to biological principles. Fishermen, ranchers, water companies and other "clients" of the DWR have diverse opinions and desires, and have a way of complicating things which could be simple, sometimes making controversial project which is biologically sound.

But understanding and working with public opinion is just as important for wildlife today as managing a trout stream. There is a strong public perception that the DWR sometimes tries to ram projects to completion before the public can complicate them; the hell with the consequences. The agency needs to improve on public relations.