The American Fisheries Society (AFS), a highly regarded group of more than 9,000 professional fisheries from around the world, recently announced Strawberry was named the Sport Fishery Development and Management Outstanding Sport Fish Restoration Project of the Year for 2006.
Roger Wilson, sport fishing program coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources and former Strawberry project leader, said he couldn't recall another Utah fishery winning such an award in his 30 years with the agency.
"It's an honor for the entire agency to be recognized by our peers for this national award," Wilson said. "They do not just routinely present this award. It shows we are progressive and innovative in our fishery management."
AFS annually presents awards in three categories to showcase outstanding fisheries that have benefited from the Sport Fish Restoration program, which directs money from an excise tax on fishing tackle, boats and fuel.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game earned two of the three 2006 awards. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources garnered an honorable mention.
The award has been a long time coming. In 1990, wildlife officials instigated the largest chemical treatment ever undertaken at the Berry. The treatment removed overwhelming numbers of Utah chub.
The group knew it would likely never be able to undertake, let alone afford, the $3.5 million price tag again. And so the decision was made to try to control rough fish populations with the Bear Lake strain of Bonneville cutthroat.
"The fact that Bear Lake cutthroat can help with chub control is a big deal. We took a regionally native fish and used them as a desirable management attribute, and it has worked," Wilson said.
National awards are nice to hang up on the wall or to list on a resume, but I have a feeling the fisheries biologists who made Strawberry what it is now, and those who will continue to maintain it, rarely hear from the very anglers who are reaping the benefits.
Next time you see a Division of Wildlife Resources employee, consider thanking him or her for efforts at Strawberry. And it doesn't have to be the fisheries biologists assigned to the reservoir; every DWR staffer from law enforcement to hatchery worker to the seasonal employee deserves credit.
For good measure, throw in some kudos for the Forest Service and angling groups, namely the Strawberry Anglers Association.
* BRETT PRETTYMAN can be contacted at brettp@sltrib .com or at 801-257-8902. Send comments about this column to firstname.lastname@example.org.