Wildlife biologists working to strengthen Utah’s Bonneville cutthroat trout populations

Jun 18, 2018, 7:52 PM | Updated: Jun 19, 2018, 1:12 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Wildlife biologists went fishing for Utah’s state fish with a stun gun in a tributary of Little Dell Reservoir.

They wanted to catch as many Bonneville cutthroat trout as they could Monday, in order to keep the population thriving.

Crews from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources wade through a tributary to Dimple Dell Reservoir in search of Bonneville cutthroat trout.

“They’re a pretty fish,” said Mike Slater, sport fish project leader for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

The Bonneville cutthroat trout, he said, has been a real favorite among Utah fly fishermen – and the official Utah state fish.

It’s one of just three trout species native to Utah, including the Colorado River cutthroat and Yellowstone cutthroat trouts.

About 15 years ago, consideration was given to listing the Bonneville cutthroat trout as an endangered species. Conservation and restoration programs with the Utah DWR have helped ensure that’s not going to be necessary anytime soon.

Wildlife biologists made sure that fish population will thrive in the waters where the Bonneville cutthroat first swam.

Bonneville cutthroat trout that have been stunned and captured will have their eggs harvested before being returned to the river. Those eggs will help the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources stock the hatchery system.

A team of biologists used a low-level electric current to temporarily stun the fish and collect them in a stream that feeds the reservoir. They planned to hold them in live wells in the stream until Tuesday, when they will extract the eggs from the females.

“Those eggs will end up in our hatchery system where we have much better survival of these eggs to young fish,” said Slater. “That gives us an opportunity to stock those fish in multiple places for both conservation and sport fish purposes.”

The fish would then be reared in the state hatchery system until they are a few inches long.

“Some of those fish will come back to places like Little Dell Reservoir or Millcreek [Canyon], or other places where we have the cutthroat population,” he said.

A priority in 2018 was to take enough of those eggs and fish to develop a brood source, or a population in the hatchery. They can use that brood source to populate more lakes and streams.

“That will again allow us to have more fish are available for both conservation and sport fish purposes on any given year,” said Slater.

Little Dell Reservoir, up Mountain Dell Canyon in Salt Lake County

The Bonneville cutthroat trout has been important to Utah for a couple of reasons.

“It’s the state fish, and I think that’s pretty exciting,” said Slater.

It’s also a state sensitive species.

“They’re not found anywhere and everywhere,” he said.

Multiple agencies and private groups, like Trout Unlimited, have worked to improve the health of the cutthroat population in Utah.

“So that you and I, and our grandkids, and others can see them way down the road,” said Slater.

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Wildlife biologists working to strengthen Utah’s Bonneville cutthroat trout populations