Trout Species in Utah
Bear Lake Cutthroat
Colorado River Cutthroat
Four sub-species have evolved from the only trout that is actually native to Utah. Except for the Bear Lake Cutthroat strain, cutthroats are best distinguished by their crimson slash along the lower jaw. Although they are often mistaken for Rainbow Trout, they lack the iridescent pink stripe or the white tipped pelvic and anal fins of the rainbow trout.
State officials have been stocking this species in increasing numbers in recent years to make sure that our native species (and our official State Fish) continue to thrive for years to come.
The Bonneville Cutthroat inhabited the Bonneville Basin and has sparsely scattered, large, and very distinctly round spots over the upper body, with few spots on or near the head. They are clothed in subdued colors of silver-gray to charcoal upper body with bronze coloration and subtle hues of pink on flanks during spawning. They, particularly the Bear Lake cutthroat strain, often lack the bright crimson jaw slash that, at times, may be yellow or gray. The deep orange pelvic and anal fins readily distinguish Bear Lake Cutthroat from Rainbow Trout.
The Colorado River Cutthroat evolved in the Colorado/Green River drainages and is noted for its brilliant coloration. The males, in spawning condition, have bright crimson stripes along the sides and the stomach. Spotting is usually concentrated posteriorly.
Yellowstone Cutthroat (not pictured) are native to Snake River drainages such as the Raft River Mountain area of northwest Utah and had been the predominant subspecies used in management programs throughout the state. It is lightly spotted with distinctly round spots concentrated toward the tail area. Today, the other native strains are becoming more extensively used in the sport-fisheries programs and are being re-introduced to many of their former habitats.
Rainbow Trout is perhaps the most popular species of fish in Utah. It is present in more waters across the state than any other fish species. Rainbow Trout are heavily stocked by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) in coldwater lakes and streams all over the state, as well as in the state’s “Community Fisheries”.
Rainbow Trout have been the staple of the Utah DWR’s management program for many decades. Rainbows are raised in state fish hatcheries, and stocked as fingerlings, fry, and catchable sized fish in nearly all Utah waters.
Colors vary greatly with patterns depending on habitat, size, and maturity. Stream residents and migrant spawners are darker and have more intense colors than lake residents or nonspawners. Lake residents tend to be silvery. A mature rainbow is dark green to bluish on the back with silvery sides. The reddish horizontal band typifies the species. The belly may be white to silvery. Irregular black spots are usually present on the head, back and sides. Rainbow Trout are heavily stocked in almost every coldwater drainage in Utah.
Tiger Trout, a hybrid cross between a male Brown Trout and a female Brook Trout, has a unique, dark, maze-like pattern all over a brownish, gray body. The belly is yellowish orange as are the pectoral, pelvic and anal fins. The tail fin is square.
Tiger trout are quite piscivorous (fish eaters) from an early age. They seem to be more willing to hunt for prey in shallower waters than many other trout subspecies are. Fisheries managers hope that Tiger Trout will keep Utah chubs from out competing and over-running other game fish in many of Utah’s reservoirs, such as Joe’s Valley and now also in Scofield Reservoir, as well as many others.
Tigers are also supposed to be more resistant to diseases such as whirling disease, which makes them a good choice for stocking in waters that are known to be infested with whirling disease.
Tiger trout are rapidly becoming one of the most popular trout species in Utah. This is most likely in part due to their brilliant, beautifully colored skin and hard fighting abilities.
In the last 2 years, Tiger Trout have been stocked in many more waters in Utah. They are now found across the state, in lakes and even in some rivers such as the Weber.
The Brown Trout, Salmo trutta, is native to Europe and western Asia. During the past 100 years, the species has been established in many of the cool and cold water areas of Utah, where it is now one of the most popular sport fish in the state.
Brown Trout are more piscivorous (fish-eating) than many other trout species. In addition to fishes, brown trout also consume amphibians, rodents, and invertebrates, including insects, snails, and crayfish. Because of their piscivorous nature, brown trout can often have a detrimental effect on populations of both native fishes and nonnative sport fishes.
Brown trout are a hardy trout species that competes well with other fishes and endures marginal water qualities better than most trout. It generally has golden brown hues with yellow under parts. The males during spawning are often brilliantly splashed with crimson spots circled with blue halos. Its upper body is usually profusely dappled with large, irregular, dark-chocolate spots. They are quite carnivorous and sport a stronger, sharper set of teeth than most trout. Brown Trout often grow to considerable size (the state record Brown Trout, caught in 1977 in Flaming Gorge Reservoir, was 33 lbs. 10 oz.).
In the fall, female brown trout dig areas (called redds) in the gravel substrate of stream riffles. Male and female fish then pass over a redd, laying and fertilizing eggs. The eggs, which hatch in one to two months, are then covered with gravel. No further care is given to the eggs or young.
Brown Trout are a beautiful fish that are hardy and can survive in poorer water quality than some other species of salmonids. Brown Trout are also more resilient to parasites such as whirling disease.
Brown Trout are easily identified in the field. They usually have a yellowish belly, with black and red spots on the sides. Some of the red spots may have a blue halo around them. They can be easily distinguished from a Brook Trout because a brook trout is dark with light spots, and a brown trout is light with dark spots. Also, the brown trout lacks the white line on the lower edge of the pectoral fins, which is present on a brook trout.
Brown Trout can be found in most Utah rivers & streams. They are also found in many reservoirs and can grow extremely large in places like Jordanelle, Deer Creek and Flaming Gorge.
A Splake Trout is the hybrid cross between Lake Trout & Brook Trout. It has a dark background with white spots. The tail fin is not as deeply forked as lake trout. The pectoral fins are easily distinguished from rainbow trout as Splake have a dark background with white spots and rainbows have a lighter, silvery background with dark spots.
This species of char has a background color of gray-brown, overlaid with light spots that vary in intensity with age and environment. The background color covers the back, sides, and fins and serves to highlight the lighter gray spots. Lake Trout in large lakes are sometimes so silvery that the spots are difficult to see. Spotting is usually more intense on small fish. The caudal fin is deeply forked. The mouth is large and terminal with strong teeth on both jaws. They are present in Fish Lake, Bear Lake, and Flaming Gorge Reservoir.