New Utah TU chapter members save fish, make friends

By Grant Bench

 Utah’s newest Trout Unlimited Chapter did not take long to help make a difference on a home water.

 The Alpine Anglers Utah County Chapter, officially launched in mid-March, stepped up to help with a fish transfer on Utah’s famed Provo River.

 A power plant near the mouth of the canyon is set for renovations and a side channel was being drained as part of the project.

A channel coming from a power plant was being drained and volunteers showed up to catch and move fish before they were stranded on dry land. Scott Root/Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources fisheries staff put out a call for help to move any fish left in the channel.

Anglers, fly fishers and conventional, came together because they care. During the quick introduction to the project, Mike Slater, a fisheries biologist with the DWR, gave us the breakdown of what we were there to do, but more importantly “why” we were there to do it.

Slater explained about a similar previous project that had gone sour; where many fish had suffocated and died in the same side channel that we would be working in. At the end of the introduction, Slater expressed his gratitude to all of us for coming together and showing up to help which added value not only to us as volunteers, but also to the project.

I had the pleasure of inviting a buddy of mine, Kyle Coombs, to help with the project. Kyle is 15-years -old and has fly-fishing fever. He was vital to the success of the project not only because he worked harder than anyone else there, but because he is the future of our sport and the fishery.

Grant Bench invited Kyle Coombs to help with the transfer. Courtesy Grant Bench.

 I asked him to share a few of his thoughts about the transfer.

“It was a great experience for me to see this project in action because I want to become a wildlife biologist,” Coombs said. “I look forward to more projects with the DWR and TU.”

Olmstead Fish Relocation

A video of the Provo River fish tranfer from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

We were all instructed to be aware, efficient, and careful with our own safety and also the safety of the fish. Utilizing an electro shocking device, DWR staff covered the water with laser like precision while volunteers quickly scooped up the fish in nets to then be transferred to water-filled buckets. The fish were then transferred to an oxygen-filled holding tank.

The only other time I’ve witnessed so many fish coming to the net is when I go fishing with my buddy Lance Egan, a competitive angler and Fly Fishing Team USA Member.

My responsibility was to transfer fish from the buckets to the holding tank. This involved a lot of walking, some running and hauling of heavy loads. The universe must have known I needed the workout.

Brown trout were the predominate species moved during the fish transfer. Scott Root/Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

 While performing this task, I connected with Dave Blair, a professor from BYU, who confessed of his love for fly fishing, the outdoors and serving in the community.

While feeling like my shoulders were going to dislocate, I have to be honest with you - I had a lot of fun helping these fish out. Connecting people with fish and nature is something I’m passionate about and willing to suffer for.

“Anytime you get to play with fish is a good time,” said Brian Wimmer, president of the new Alpine Anglers Chapter. “Projects like this make conservation A LOT of fun.”

After the last trout and sculpin were collected, they were transferred a few miles upstream to a local access point. A highlight of the day was witnessing the fish swim down the chute and back into their home water.

A large collapsible tube was hooked up to the holding tank, a clear path to the river was made and Mike released the valve on the tank. An estimated 350 fish were safely placed back in the beautiful Provo River to continue eating blue-winged olives, midges, sowbugs and each other.

We were all in great spirits when the last fish was transferred and our work for the day was done. We felt very satisfied knowing that we, as a team, came together and helped the fishery and made some new friends in the process. Just as important, the future leaders in conservation and our sport were positively influenced for good.

Grant Bench, AKA Fly Ninja, is vice president of the Alpine Anglers TU Chapter in Utah County. He resides in Orem, Utah.


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