Artificial catfish nests being placed in Bountiful Lake by Utah DWR

Aug 25 2010 - 11:10pm

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(Nicholas Draney/Standard-Examiner) Chris Penne works to place a catfish nest in Bountiful Lake
(Nicholas Draney/Standard-Examiner) Chris Penne works to place a catfish nest in Bountiful Lake

BOUNTIFUL LAKE -- As a pelican swoops overhead and the cattail sways along the shore, Eric Stephenson lowers a love nest into the water.

It's a catfish crib that Stephenson is dropping to the bottom; an artificial "nest" made of wood to entice the fish to spawn in Bountiful Lake.

"They are not the prettiest fish, but they taste good," he adds, motoring a small skiff across the 50-acre pond.

Stephenson and Chris Penne are both Utah Division of Wildlife Resources employees who regularly stock the Davis County pond with catfish and trout.

Each summer, they dump more than 5,000 catfish into the pond as part of a stocking program for what the division describes as a community fishing pond.

Normally, these whiskered fish begin life outside of Utah -- grown in Arkansas -- and then are transported to ponds across the state.

But, for the first time, the state has started a little housing program for the catfish at Bountiful Lake.

On Wednesday, the wader-wearing Stephenson and Penne splashed 20-plus pound boxes, each with an entrance hole and a concrete base, into the waters near the shore of one of the small islands on the lake.

"We have all the habitat variables for reproduction they need, except one," said Penne, an Ogden-based biologist. "They are missing the spawning cavities, the holes in the pond banks or the rocks."

Channel "cats" usually lay their eggs in crevices, hollows or debris, to protect them from swift currents.

But with 10 new wooden homes resting at the bottom, it's hoped the fish will use the boxes to populate this lake, which is fed via a canal by the Jordan River.

Over the years, the lake has become more visible to the community since the Legacy Parkway was built nearby.

"It's a well-kept secret," said Connie Dorsey, holding her grandson Lincoln in her arms, near the boat ramp.

She and husband Terry said it was a regular stop for them to enjoy the outdoors. The catfish could be waiting for them, should the Dorseys bring a pole or two next time they visit.

But Stephenson warns there can be a small price to pay for hooking and hauling in the tasty dish.

Channel catfish, which can reach 20 pounds or more, have a small protruding bone that can nick its handler -- even an experienced boat hand.

"Hundreds of times," Stephenson said, describing the tiny sting from thousands of fish that have passed his way on their route to a new swimming hole.

Some might argue that's an ungrateful reception for a man giving the fish their underwater starter-uppers, a 3-foot condo the DWR hopes will become a love shack to the next generation of catfish in a Utah pond.

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