Officials study recovery of trout in river after dam spill

PROVO, Utah (AP) — Utah state wildlife officials are studying the brown trout population in the American Fork River to assess how the fish are recovering following a large sediment release from a nearby dam that nearly wiped out the fish population.

The Utah Department of Wildlife Resources spent some of last week electrofishing select sections of the river in order to study the habitat and health of the fish living there, the Daily Herald reported .

The goal was to safely capture the fish living in segments of the river and weigh and measure them. Last week’s data will be compared against last year’s data from the same sections.

Officials are hoping to see some improvements showing the native brown trout are recovering since the release from Tibble Fork Dam in August 2017.

“We’re monitoring the fish, seeing how many big and little fish there are, monitoring the bugs, sampling the habitat and the water flow,” said Mike Slater, Utah Department of Wildlife Resources regional sportfish project leader.

After making two runs to catch fish, the teams weighed and measured the fish, and then released them back into the river. A number of the fish were smaller than 5 or 6 inches (about 13 to 15 centimeters), but in a few of the deeper pools, the team caught full size 10 and 12 inchers (about 25 to 30 centimeters).

“We’re very encouraged with what we’re seeing,”“said Chris Crockett, regional aquatic program manager, adding that finding fish in all age groups is a promising sign that the fish population is doing well.

Alan Jenkins, dam tender for the North Utah County Water Conservancy District, also took a few sample fish and sent them to a laboratory in Washington. The agency is studying the metal levels in the fish to see how the sediment flow affected them at a molecular level.