Carp Not Native to Utah Lake; Introduced in 1882.
Utah Lake was one of the natural resources that attracted Mormon pioneers to the Great Basin. The lake’s waters provided a home for thirteen species of fish, the most commercially useful of which were the Bonneville cutthroat trout, several types of sucker, and the chub. Most of the native species are now gone, and the fish so numerous in the lake today, including the carp, have been introduced by man.
Just thirty years after settlement in 1849, over-fishing and poor conservation had drastically reduced the number of trout, the lake’s most desirable fish. Those interested in fishing began looking for a good game and commercial fish to replace it. Newspaper articles told how people in Europe had successfully raised carp. Fish farmers touted carp as a good table fish and a profitable cash crop.
Carp were imported to North America in 1870, and the recent completion of the transcontinental railroad made it possible to ship the fish inland. Carp came to Utah in 1881. The next year, three men introduced carp to Utah County, and carp fingerlings soon found their way into Utah Lake where they flourished.
Unfortunately, the fish have been detrimental to the lake’s ecology. Carp have rooted out or eaten the plants that once grew on the bottom of the lake. This reduced the cover where young game fish could hide. Fewer plants also make it easier for wave action to stir up the sediment on the bottom of the lake and make the water murky. Bodily wastes from the vast number of carp increase the nutrients in the water and encourage the growth of algae on the lake’s surface during hot weather.
A concerted effort over the years to decrease the number of carp in the lake uses large nets to remove them. The ecology of the lake improves with less carp. Keeping them under control is an ongoing program.