Utah’s World-Class Trout Fishery – Strawberry Reservoir
Utah’s Strawberry Reservoir may arguably be the best trout fishery in the western United States. It has gained a reputation recently… throughout the world… as a Skywalker OG Strain place to catch big cutthroat and rainbow trout.
A beautiful… and very large… high-alpine reservoir, Strawberry is my favorite Utah fishing destination. Lying in a mountain-rimmed valley at 7,600 feet, it covers more than 17,000 acres in most years.
At Strawberry, you’ll find two excellent recreation complexes: Strawberry Bay Recreation Complex and Soldier Creek Recreation Complex. With fishing access, boat ramps, and full-service marinas. Strawberry Bay also has a café. Camping and picnic areas are located throughout the Strawberry Reservoir area.
History Of Strawberry Reservoir
The Strawberry Dam… on the Strawberry River… was completed in 1912. About 24 miles (38.6 km) east of Heber City. An earthfill structure, the dam is 72 feet high and contained 118,000 cubic yards of materials. But trout weren’t stocked until 1923. It wasn’t long, though before Strawberry earned a reputation as a dynamite fishery.
It wasn’t until 1974 that the Soldier Creek Dam was completed as part of the Bonneville Unit of the Central Utah Project. It is 7 miles (11.2 km) downstream from Strawberry Dam. The dam between Strawberry and Soldier Creek was breached in 1985. And resulted in an even more massive reservoir. The water surface of Strawberry Reservoir rose by about 45 feet. And the surface area increased to its present 17,163 acres.
But human action… as it does so frequently… set in motion a series of events which plagues Strawberry Reservoir to this day. Through the years… starting around 1945… for reasons known only to those who did it, nongame fish were illegally introduced into Strawberry. By 1960, those undesirable non-game fish… or chubs… had invaded the fishery. The sad result? Chubs made up 90% of the fish in the reservoir.
Strawberry was treated with poison… rotenone… in 1961 to kill the chubs. But once again, non-game bait fish were introduced into the reservoir… probably in 1972. And by the mid-80’s, they made up 93% of the fish in the reservoir.
So, once again, a rotenone project was undertaken in 1990. The largest known such treatment in the world. But probably due to the sheer size of the reservoir, not all the fish were killed. Nonetheless, the biologists had a plan. The goal was to manage the chub’s numbers by introducing Bonneville cutthroat… a voracious chub predator… into Strawberry. The cutthroats had preyed on chubs for centuries.
Recent studies… and fantastic fishing results… show that this strategy is working. Big time. It has proven to be very effective in controlling the chub numbers. The cutthroats… from Bear Lake stock… have prospered. And, after sterile rainbow trout were introduced, they too have flourished.
In 1996, a four fish limit was introduced. Only one could be over 18 inches. And fishermen were asked… although not required… to release all cutthroat trout. The intent was to let the cutthroats grow large enough…