close
close

Endangered June sucker population improves as state continues to monitor species | News, sports, jobs


1/7

Biologist Andrew Nagy and his colleagues from the Utah Department of Natural Resources search for June suckerfish in a small pond next to Hobble Creek in Springville on Wednesday, June 5, 2024.

Carlene Coombs, Daily Herald

2/7

Utah Department of Natural Resources biologist Andrew Nagy shows a June suckerfish caught near Hobble Creek in Springville on Wednesday, June 5, 2024.

Carlene Coombs, Daily Herald

3/7

Utah Department of Natural Resources biologist Andrew Nagy documents a June suckerfish caught near Hobble Creek in Springville on Wednesday, June 5, 2024.

Carlene Coombs, Daily Herald

4/7

Utah Department of Natural Resources biologist Andrew Nagy shows a brown trout caught Wednesday, June 5, 2024, near Hobble Creek in Springville.

Carlene Coombs, Daily Herald

5/7

Biologist Andrew Nagy and his colleagues from the Utah Department of Natural Resources search for June suckerfish in a small pond next to Hobble Creek in Springville on Wednesday, June 5, 2024.

Carlene Coombs, Daily Herald

6/7

Utah Department of Natural Resources biologist Andrew Nagy documents a June suckerfish caught near Hobble Creek in Springville on Wednesday, June 5, 2024.

Carlene Coombs, Daily Herald

7/7

Biologist Andrew Nagy and his colleagues from the Utah Department of Natural Resources search for June suckerfish in a small pond next to Hobble Creek in Springville on Wednesday, June 5, 2024.

Carlene Coombs, Daily Herald

❮ ❯















Andrew Nagy, a biologist with the Utah Department of Natural Resources, recently made an exciting find in Springville’s Hobble Creek: wild juvenile June suckers.

Nagy said juvenile June suckers have been absent for the past 10 to 20 years, but last year conservationists began detecting them in Hobble Creek and the Provo River Delta.

In Springville, Nagy and other DNR members specifically encountered a “semi-isolated” pond adjacent to the river that connects at high flows but separates at low flows, except for a small flow in and out.

“And it turns out the pond acts as a pretty good nursery for June suckers,” he said, adding that the insulation appears to protect the suckers from other predatory fish.

On Wednesday, Nagy and two of his colleagues ventured into the small pond, which is tucked between Hobble Creek and some farmland, to look for June suckers.

They used an ‘electrophic’ method, sending an electric current into the water with a probe to stun the fish for a few seconds, while coming up behind with a net to scoop up the fish and place them in a bucket of water.

Wednesday morning, the group collected brown trout, mosquitofish, spotted sculpins and, most importantly, juvenile June suckers.

They found four or five small June suckers on Wednesday, which Nagy said was pretty good compared to the past 20 years, but less than what they had seen earlier this year. He added that many of the fish hide in vegetation, evading their catch.

All captured June suckers were measured before being released back into the water. Each fish was less than 40 inches long, while the smallest measured 24 inches, which Nagy said was smaller than he had hoped.

Captured brown trout, which are not native to Utah, were also measured before release, and mosquitofish were counted but will be released elsewhere because the small, non-native fish are damaging June sucker habitat.

June suckers are found only in Utah Lake and its tributaries, and the population used to number in the millions, Nagy said. However, as wetland habitats have been degraded by agricultural land and urban development and non-native fish such as common carp have been introduced, the number of native species was reduced to just a few hundred in the 1980s and 1990s.

The fish have been listed as endangered, but have been downlisted as “threatened” and remain federally protected as the population has risen back into the tens of thousands.

Although the population has increased, about 90% to 95% of June suckers have been released into the wild from hatcheries, according to Nagy.

Ensuring the species can naturally maintain its own population without being supplemented by hatcheries will be a factor in getting them off the endangered list, Nagy said, as will actual population numbers.

“Many of the fish in the lake today are hatchery fish. “But obviously if you want them to fully recover, you have to make sure they reproduce naturally enough to maintain their population,” he said. “So there has been a lot of focus lately on habitat restoration in the tributaries.”

The Provo River Delta Project is another area where groups are aiming to rejuvenate native fish species, with the goal of creating improved spawning habitat.

DNR will do more research in Hobble Creek this fall, Nagy said, once the larvae have a few months to grow this year. He said all eggs laid in the river this spawning season, which is around May, should hatch within a week.



Newsletter

Join the thousands who already receive our daily newsletter.






Back To Top