Department of Wildlife Resources introduce splake to Jordanelle Reservoir (w/video)
On Thursday, the Jordanelle Reservoir got a new inhabitant: Splake. Chris Crockett, regional aquatics manager of the central region, and his colleagues delivered the sterile hybrid of a lake and brook trout by parking a truck with equipped with fish tanks up at the personal watercraft ramp, and jettisoning 38,000 fingerlings into the reservoir as part of a plan to boost the fishery’s shoulder seasons.
“We don’t want to put all our species out there that are all best to catch in the summer, then have all this competition between our anglers and other users,” Crockett said.
Instead, the fish, which are great for ice fishing and fall fishing, will provide a family-friendly fishing opportunity after the jet skis have been dry-docked.
And while they will be catchable by the end of this season, it will be 2 to 3 years before they become real lunkers — or, at least, some fun fish for families to drop a line for.
The decision to add splake to the lake was the result of a series of conversations with local anglers for the 2016 Jordanelle Reservoir Fishery Management Plan.
Crockett said the splake were added at the behest of anglers to help fill a niche in the lake’s ecosystem, alongside the kokanee salmon, as pelagic, omnivorous, sport fish. The splake are also supposed to be easier to catch than their relatives and grow larger in a shorter amount of time, reaching 14-16 inches within two seasons, though they can grow much larger. That makes them a great size for sport fishermen, Crockett said, especially families that want their kid to haul in a trophy.
And because they are functionally sterile they can be easily managed. As far as Crockett knew, Thursday was the first time the fish had dipped their fins in the Jordanelle, but under the management plan, more will join them each year as needed.
“The beauty of splake is we can adjust that,” he said. “We can tweak it. We can fine-tune it through the years.”
And even though they don’t reproduce in significant numbers, they have higher survival rates than the rainbow trout the DWR stocks, so many of them become fat and reach maturity. In that way, and a few others, the splake take after their lake trout mothers. They also offer a similar fishing experience, in which they fight hard and dive when hooked.
Crockett said the splake are also just as delicious as lake trout. He likes to make fish tacos with them, starting by whipping up either a lime aioli or a cilantro and lime dressing, with some pico de gallo with red onion and quartered cherry tomatoes. He then cuts the splake into strips, dips them in an egg wash with a little hot sauce, and breads them in cornmeal and cajun seasoning before frying and serving them.
The splake join tiger musky, 12-inch rainbow trout, wipers (a breed of hybrid striped bass), and kokanee in the lineup of fish the DWR now stocks in the Jordanelle.
How they all get along is yet to be seen.
“There will probably be winners and losers at Jordanelle,” Crockett said, referring to the ecosystem. “But in the long run we are going to provide a lot of species that provide good opportunities for anglers.”
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Returning to Park City’s Shepherd of the Mountains Lutheran Church on Saturday is the annual Bike and Hike fundraiser in support of the Good News Jail and Prison Ministry.