Hilary Robertson / 23 June, 2014

The Digital Universe – Matthew McKinlay

Provo residents celebrated Free Fishing Day Saturday, June 7, by exploring booths and fishing in the lake at the annual Utah Lake Festival. “The whole purpose of the festival is to draw people to Utah Lake,” said Jackie Watson, from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. “It has a lot more to offer than you might think.”The festival at the Utah Lake State Park was sponsored by the Utah Lake Commission and the June Sucker Recovery Implementation Program. Many other organizations also got involved by setting up educational and recreational booths at the park. Booths included fishing games for kids and information about subjects like water conservation and wildlife preservation.

Historically, Utah Lake has been thought of as dirty and uninviting. “For the people that grew up here, the lake has a bad reputation,” said Mike Mills, coordinator for the June Sucker Recovery Implementation Program. The purpose of the program is to save the June Sucker, an endangered species of fish that lives in Utah Lake. Mills said Utah Lake is a much cleaner and friendlier lake than it used to be. He goes to the lake often and is always surprised there are not more people there. He hopes the Utah Lake Festival will help people see the possibilities Utah Lake has to offer.

The June Sucker Recovery Implementation Program held the first Utah Lake Festival in 2004. But the festival did not have much success until a few years later when the Utah Lake Commission got involved. “When we partnered with the Utah Lake Commission, that’s when it really took off,” Mills said.

The Utah Lake Commission is dedicated to educating the public about the lake. “We want to get the public out here to see what the lake is like,” said Reed Price, executive director of the Utah Lake Commission. “We hope that if they have a good experience then they’ll come back.” And people did have good experiences. “We’ve been having fun playing games,” said Carli Rogers, a Provo resident, as she pushed the stroller with her two children to the next booth.

Steve Phair, another resident, was impressed by the educational aspect of the festival. “They did a good job catering to the kids and trying to provide education to the community,” he said. His children had fun learning about water conservation and the dangers of tobacco at two of the many booths featured at the festival.

The Salt Lake County Fish and Game Association also had an informational booth. “We’re introducing families to the great outdoors through fishing,” said Jeff Salt, a board member of the association. “We hope that through fishing we can educate the public about the need to protect our wildlife resources.”

The Salt Lake County Fish and Game Association provided reels, rods, bait and even casting training for anyone who wanted to fish in the lake. Since it was Free Fishing Day, anyone could fish in the state even if they didn’t have a licence.

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