(Onchorhynchus clarki utah)
The Bonneville Cutthroat Trout is a subspecies of cutthroat trout native to the tributaries of the Great Salt Lake. The Bonneville Cutthroat Trout descended from cutthroat trout that once inhabited ancient Lake Bonneville, an inland sea encompassing western Utah, eastern Nevada, and southern Idaho during the late Pleistocene era. As Lake Bonneville began to recede some 10,000 years ago, its trout swam into neighboring tributaries to escape the lake's ever-increasing salinity and desiccation into the present-day Great Salt Lake. As a result, Bonneville cutthroats have been isolated in small populations in the headwaters of mountain streams and in lakes of the Bonneville drainage basin of western Utah, southern Idaho, and eastern Nevada. This unique isolation over tens of thousands of years has resulted in an endemic species of trout found nowhere else in the world.
Bonneville Cutthroat Trout comprise one of 14 recognized subspecies of cutthroat trout native to the western United States. These trout primarily eat other fish while smaller individuals and to a lesser extent adults consume primarily insects and crustaceans. This trout has sparsely scattered, very distinct round spots over its upper body. The background colors are a subdued silver-gray to charcoal with the upper body displayed in subtle hues of pink on the flanks during spawning.
With the exception of the Bear Lake strain, Bonnevilles usually average less than ten inches in length due to their habitats in small cold water streams. Their lack of wariness makes them more vulnerable to anglers and they can be caught on a wide variety of baits and flies. As the primary native trout of the inland west, Bonneville Cutthroats suffered intense fishing pressure for commerce and sustenance from the 1850s through the 1920s, notably in Utah's Bear Lake. Today, this rare and endangered species sits on the Utah Sensitive Species List where are continually threatened by predation, competition by non-native fish, hybridization with non-native fish (in particular the rainbow trout, resulting in "Cutbows").
In 1997, the Bonneville cutthroat was designated the official state fish of Utah. In Nevada, Bonneville Cutthroat Trout are fairly concentrated in the Snake Range and Great Basin National Park where they survive in only a few streams. Other pockets of their populations are scattered in a small patch of the state's remote northeastern corner. A partnership between the National Park Service (NPS) and the Nevada Department of Wildlife have gone to great lengths to preserve this rare fish. People who catch them are advised to return to the water unharmed to help preserve the species.