Blue Ribbon Fisheries Program Allocates $440K to Utah’s Best Fishing Spots

Blue Ribbon Fisheries Program Allocates $440K to Utah’s Best Fishing Spots

Blue Ribbon Fisheries are waterbodies that provide some of Utah’s most exceptional, high-quality fishing experiences. The program that designates and helps fund these fisheries recently allocated over $440,000 toward 11 projects aimed at enhancing these waterbodies so they retain their elite status.

There are currently 43 waterbodies in addition to two mountain areas in Utah — streams, rivers and lakes on the Uinta mountains and on Boulder Mountain — that hold this Blue Ribbon status. The Blue Ribbon Fisheries program was created in 2001 by then-Gov. Mike Leavitt, and was formally established in 2005 through an executive order by then-Gov. Jon Huntsman.

“The program was created because Utah’s leaders recognized that fishing is one of the state’s most popular and economically valuable recreational activities,” Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Sportfish Coordinator Trina Hedrick said. “There was a need to recognize the best angling opportunities in the state and to provide additional funding for further improvements to keep them at that level. This program helps fulfill those needs.”

In order to be named a Blue Ribbon Fishery, a waterbody has to meet several requirements and provide highly satisfying fishing and recreational experiences for diverse groups of anglers and outdoor enthusiasts. The waterbodies are selected and reviewed by the Blue Ribbon Fisheries Advisory Council, which is a representative committee of 13 anglers appointed by the governor.

“These waters are among the best fishing spots in Utah. They have been proven to provide not only great fishing, but also ideal habitat for the fish, economic benefits to the local communities, and an overall high-quality experience in the outdoors,” Hedrick said. “They offer high fishing success rates (either through high catch rates or bigger fish) and usually have great amenities like boat ramps and fishing piers.”

High-quality fishing waterbodies are only one important part of the Blue Ribbon Fisheries program, however. The program also allocates funds for improvements to help maintain that quality experience and to allow other waterbodies to reach Blue Ribbon status once they are selected for the Blue Ribbon “potential” list. The advisory council selects improvement projects for various waterbodies each year, and those projects are then funded by a portion of Utah’s annual fishing license sales.

A total of 11 projects were selected by the Blue Ribbon Fisheries Advisory Council this year, and they will be completed throughout the 2024-25 fiscal year. Some of the projects include:

  • Cedar Springs fishing pier at Flaming Gorge Reservoir: This new trail and fishing dock will provide additional shore access in the canyon area of Flaming Gorge Reservoir, and because it will float, it will allow the dock to move up and down as water levels fluctuate. Roughly $45,000 will be allocated from Blue Ribbon for this project.
  • Restocking cutthroat trout via helicopter: This project will restore Colorado River cutthroat trout into the East and West Forks of Carter Creek on the Uinta north slope and into Oweep Creek on the Uinta south slope. These areas were treated with rotenone in an effort to restore cutthroat trout to these native ranges. Due to how remote these areas are, using a helicopter is the most efficient way to restock the waterbodies. Roughly $57,000 will be allocated to this project.
  • Recapture Reservoir fish habitat enhancement project: This project will install fish habitat structures into Recapture Reservoir, which will benefit panfish populations, especially as water levels decline. When water levels decline at the reservoir, this can leave fish vulnerable to predation, especially juvenile fish. Fish habitat structures provide the necessary cover during low water to protect these young fish from predators.

Last fiscal year, 17 Blue Ribbon Fisheries projects and initiatives were completed.