- Associated Press - Friday, February 13, 2015

PROVO, Utah (AP) - Fishermen have passed the halfway point in a major cleanup project on Utah Lake aimed at wiping out 75 percent of the carp population.

The project will improve the clarity of the water and make the area more attractive for anglers.

About 17 million pounds of carp have been removed over the past four years, Reed Price, executive director of the Utah Lake Commission, said Wednesday. The goal is to remove a total of 32 million pounds. The lake once contained an estimated 40 million pounds of carp.

“We see the lake once again being embraced by the community, and it’s going to take a lot of effort,” Price said. “We’re not planning to see a Lake Tahoe or anything like that, but it can get better.”

By removing so much of the carp population, managers hope to improve the water’s clarity and quality, as well as the diversity of fish beneath the water’s surface.

Carp was introduced in the lake in the late 1800s and is being blamed for destroying the habitat of the June sucker, which is only found in Utah Lake. A state report in 1979 showed June sucker numbers were seriously in decline, and by 1986 the June sucker made the endangered species list.

Fifth-generation fisherman Bill Loy Jr. believes he has already noticed a difference in the clarity of the water since the start of the carp purge.

“They’re just a pig,” said Loy of Loy Fisheries, which is tasked with removing much of the carp. “They eat up the bottom vegetation so it doesn’t grow. And in a shallow lake like this, it just turns it into a mud puddle.”

Loy said his crew pulls out 20,000 to 60,000 pounds of carp per day.

“Sometimes you don’t know where the fish are and you’re chasing them all around the lake,” Loy said. “You can drive across on this (air) boat and you’ll see mud spots.”

The extracted carp are turned into compost or are sold to mink farms, he said.

At the current rate, Price expects the project will be completed by 2018 at the earliest. He said an improved Utah Lake could become a destination of fishermen from across the country.

Lake managers are seeking a $500,000 appropriation from the Legislature this session to pair with $200,000 in matched funds. The project requires at least $700,000 every year for the next three or four years to continue progress at the current rate, Price said.

“There are so many good things happening right now in regards to Utah Lake that we just need to keep pushing,” Price said. “The payoff will be worth it.”

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