Casual observers respond, "I always see that name Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife in the news," but those familiar with wildlife issues in Utah know there is no fish in SFW. In fact, some would argue the name should be ''Sportsmen for Trophy Big Game Animals Only Rich Hunters Can Afford.''
Recognizing the need for their own voice to be carried to those who make the ultimate decisions on fishing issues, members of several groups began meeting in 2001 to form a unified front when it comes to angling concerns in Utah.
The Utah Anglers Coalition (UAC) officially launched in February 2004. Today, members making up UAC include Rocky Mountain Anglers; Salt Lake County Fish and Game Association; Strawberry Anglers Association; The Utah Council of Trout Unlimited (including eight in-state chapters); Trout Unlimited's Utah Water Project; the Utah Bass Federation; the Utah Bass Club; and Wilderness Trout Expeditions.
"It was a challenge getting all the different groups together," UAC chairman Ed Kent said. "But we all realized how important it was for us to unite as a coalition to represent anglers. We will obviously focus on issues which affect our membership, but we want to look out for the Utah angler in general. We want to hear from anglers across the state about the issues they are facing."
One of the best examples of UAC in action was the creation of a restrictive size regulation on cutthroat trout at Strawberry Reservoir. Although it happened before UAC officially organized, that rule change was a success, not only because it has helped lead to one of the best trout fisheries in the West, but because of the lack of public outcry when the proposal finally went to the Wildlife Board.
UAC member groups spent a lot of time informing the general public about the importance of protecting cutthroat trout of a certain size and the change went through the process with nary a raised eyebrow.
DWR officials should have involved UAC when they pushed for a regulation change on the middle stretch of the Provo River to allow bait fishing. The wildlife agency will be sporting a black eye over that one for a long time to come after springing the proposal on anglers at the last minute.
UAC's main goal in the next year is to help the DWR obtain $8.5 million from the Legislature to complete the reconstruction of the Midway Fish Hatchery and knock down and rebuild part of the Springville Hatchery closed because of whirling disease.
High-elevation lakes across the state are finally becoming accessible as the snow melts. Mickey Anderson of Fish Tech Outfitters hit several Uinta Mountain lakes last weekend and said brook trout are cruising the edges and rainbows are stacked at inlets preparing to spawn, whether they are capable or not.
Anderson said bait anglers were picking up fish and fly fishers or spincasters using flies were doing well with Renegade dry patterns and beadhead Prince nymphs.
Most rivers and streams around the state have returned to near normal summer flows and fishing has been improving on moving waters. Some larger rivers are still high, but are running much clearer than a month ago.
If heading for the high country make sure to wear waterproof boots, or expect your feet to get wet, and pack mosquito repellent.