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Question for the group. I can't seem to find any info online. I was recently up in park valley and it had me thinking of the trout in the streams on the south slope of the raft river mountains.

I thought I heard somewhere that those fish were a unique strain of Bonneville cut with a different phenotype that look more like a rainbow. No red slash on the jaw, more fine spots etc. Those creeks terminate into the sagebrush and don't run anywhere. So it would make sense that they could be genetically unique.

I also recall hearing that they were just called Bonneville trout, not Bonneville cutthroat.

Does anyone know anything about this or can point me in the right direction?
 

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Question for the group. I can't seem to find any info online. I was recently up in park valley and it had me thinking of the trout in the streams on the south slope of the raft river mountains.

I thought I heard somewhere that those fish were a unique strain of Bonneville cut with a different phenotype that look more like a rainbow. No red slash on the jaw, more fine spots etc. Those creeks terminate into the sagebrush and don't run anywhere. So it would make sense that they could be genetically unique.

I also recall hearing that they were just called Bonneville trout, not Bonneville cutthroat.

Does anyone know anything about this or can point me in the right direction?
I don't believe there is a genetically distinct Bonneville cutt up there. As has been noted, there are Yellowstones up there in the rivers flowing towards the Snake. Bonnies may be present in the South flowing streams, but they are not recognized as distinct. That said, there could be some wild, introduced rainbow trout in those creeks that fit the description you describe.

http://wildlife.utah.gov/pdf/cacs7.pdf

That said, not many folks know that there are 4 or 5 recognized subtypes of Bonneville cutts that are documented. From the above document. pg.22

"The groups of cutthroat trout in the Bonneville basin include: 1) those in the Bear River of
Northern Utah, Southeast Idaho and Southwest Wyoming, 2) those in the Snake Valley region on
the Utah-Nevada border, 3) those in the main Bonneville Basin and 4) a Southern Bonneville
type. These groups can be differentiated based on morphological, ecological and molecular
evidence
."

The Bear lake cutt is often considered a 5th subtype.

You may have heard about the Snake Valley fish, which are recognized as distinct, as the fish you are wondering about, or maybe the Pilot mountain Lahontans.
 

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I don't believe there is a genetically distinct Bonneville cutt up there. As has been noted, there are Yellowstones up there in the rivers flowing towards the Snake. Bonnies may be present in the South flowing streams, but they are not recognized as distinct.
Yep, I'm not aware of any unique strains of bonnie cutts in that area. What the original poster described sounds like a mix of Snake River strain of Yellowstone cutties (fine-spotted), Lahontan cutties, and Great Basin red-band trout.
 

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I'll leave it up to the ichthyologists to determine how much genetic difference there needs to be in fish populations to qualify them as separate strains. Any native cutthroat populations in the Lake Bonneville Basin that have remained geographically isolated since the Lake dried up a few thousand years back have had the time to evolve certain minor phenotypical differences. When those differences might be enough to warrant separate subspecies classifications is a fuzzy, gray line that makes little real difference.

Like Catherder said, the native cutthroat on the northern, Snake River drainage side of the Raft River Mtns would be Yellowstone cutthroats. Any native cutthroat on the Lake Bonneville side (if any original native cutthroat populations actually even still exist there), would be from the Bonneville cutthroat group, despite any minor differences that might exist between them and others found elsewhere in the basin.

By the way, the Lahontan cutthroat on the slopes of Pilot Peak were introduced by some unknown person a hundred years, or so, ago from the ancient Lake Lahontan Basin area of western Nevada (an ice age cousin of Lake Bonneville). There's an interesting story about how those fish were thought extinct in that area until that oddball group of Lahontan cutthroat was rediscovered, far from their home, on Pilot Peak. Descendants of the Pilot Peak fish have been used to restock lakes and streams in their ancestral habitat of western Nevada. Here's the story: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/24/us/lahontan-cutthroat-trout-make-a-comeback.html?_r=0
 

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I'll leave it up to the ichthyologists to determine how much genetic difference there needs to be in fish populations to qualify them as separate strains. Any native cutthroat populations in the Lake Bonneville Basin that have remained geographically isolated since the Lake dried up a few thousand years back have had the time to evolve certain minor phenotypical differences. When those differences might be enough to warrant separate subspecies classifications is a fuzzy, gray line that makes little real difference.

Like Catherder said, the native cutthroat on the northern, Snake River drainage side of the Raft River Mtns would be Yellowstone cutthroats. Any native cutthroat on the Lake Bonneville side (if any original native cutthroat populations actually even still exist there), would be from the Bonneville cutthroat group, despite any minor differences that might exist between them and others found elsewhere in the basin.

By the way, the Lahontan cutthroat on the slopes of Pilot Peak were introduced by some unknown person a hundred years, or so, ago from the ancient Lake Lahontan Basin area of western Nevada (an ice age cousin of Lake Bonneville). There's an interesting story about how those fish were thought extinct in that area until that oddball group of Lahontan cutthroat was rediscovered, far from their home, on Pilot Peak. Descendants of the Pilot Peak fish have been used to restock lakes and streams in their ancestral habitat of western Nevada. Here's the story: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/24/us/lahontan-cutthroat-trout-make-a-comeback.html?_r=0
I did a story for Hatch Magazine in July about the nine or so distinctly recognized subspecies of cutthroat that are still alive today. A lot of information in here that might prove useful or helpful to you guys.

http://www.hatchmag.com/articles/cutthroat-101/7712788

My favorite was the Paiute cutthroat - a very interesting strain of the Lahontan.

And everyone needs to read that NY Times piece about the Lahontans. They did a great job on the story, and it's a great tale of survival for a true Western legend.
 

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Nice read Spencer
 
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Nice read and photography, Spencer. Did you catch some of those fish in the pics?



Catching all the cutt subspecies is still one of the things on my bucket list. Sadly, I'm down one I thought I had. When I lived in Colorado, I caught what I thought was a greenback cutt in Rocky Mountain NP. With the "newest" genetic analysis, they now say it wasn't (or they are not sure, depending on who is asked). Ugh.
 

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Nice read and photography, Spencer. Did you catch some of those fish in the pics?

Catching all the cutt subspecies is still one of the things on my bucket list. Sadly, I'm down one I thought I had. When I lived in Colorado, I caught what I thought was a greenback cutt in Rocky Mountain NP. With the "newest" genetic analysis, they now say it wasn't (or they are not sure, depending on who is asked). Ugh.
I wish! No, the pics were all sourced from TU and various departments of wildlife across the West.

Yeah, the Greenbacks are an interesting bunch. According to the latest data there's about 700 of them left in the world. They've been reintroduced to a stream that's free of invasive species, but only time will tell if they take or not. A LOT of money has been put behind them.
 

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I love this story because, as much as anything, it really shows how genetics and habitat play out in fish sizes--those cutthroat in the pilot peak streams are tiny and are limited because of their habitat, not their genetics. Once those fish were moved to a more suitable habitat where they weren't limited, they have grown to massive sizes and the potential for much bigger is still out there. Too often fishermen get caught up in genetics as the limiting factor for big fish--think kamloops rainbows versus the different strains that Utah uses. Fishermen are often wanting different strains of fish to be used because of their genetic qualities...what these fishermen fail to recognize is that the genetics aren't always what are limiting fish growth much as the genetics weren't limiting the fish growth of those little pilot peak cutts.

The return of huge lahontans is an awesome success story for native species reintroductions...I would love for Utah to start a brood stock of lahontans and try using them in some of our reservoirs in place of rainbows just to see if there is some potential for really big fish.
 

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I love this story because, as much as anything, it really shows how genetics and habitat play out in fish sizes--those cutthroat in the pilot peak streams are tiny and are limited because of their habitat, not their genetics. Once those fish were moved to a more suitable habitat where they weren't limited, they have grown to massive sizes and the potential for much bigger is still out there. Too often fishermen get caught up in genetics as the limiting factor for big fish--think kamloops rainbows versus the different strains that Utah uses. Fishermen are often wanting different strains of fish to be used because of their genetic qualities...what these fishermen fail to recognize is that the genetics aren't always what are limiting fish growth much as the genetics weren't limiting the fish growth of those little pilot peak cutts.

The return of huge lahontans is an awesome success story for native species reintroductions...I would love for Utah to start a brood stock of lahontans and try using them in some of our reservoirs in place of rainbows just to see if there is some potential for really big fish.
Yep. Spot on.

I'd love to see Lahontans here in Utah. Think they'd be a great addition to our burgeoning cutthroat fishery.

However, I've worked closely with the DWR on cutthroat restoration projects (another story here http://www.hatchmag.com/articles/heritage-and-nature/7712622). A large part of why we're even able to fish half of the rivers we can is due to all the work put in by the DWR to restore native cutthroat to their native habitat.

CR Cutts belong in one drainage, Bonnies in the other. Obviously, there's not a perfect system in place for them right now - Bonnies are in Strawberry when is should be CR Cutts, since that drainage eventually ends up in the Colorado River.

Another example of things being not quite right is the Yellowstone cutthroat population in Electric Lake. It's the only self-sustaining Yellowstone cutthroat population outside of Yellowstone area itself, and I believe (correct me if I'm wrong) they were put there as a safety measure for if/when Yellowstone cutthroat can't make it in their native waters.

Aside from that, a huge focus is on putting the right fish back where they belong - I make the point in the article how the correct fish in the correct waters impacts everything in a good way. So with that in mind, it'd be devilishly difficult to put Lahontans anywhere in Utah. I could see Fish Lake as a potential destination, or possibly Joe's Valley Reservoir, because neither of those areas are being currently managed for cutthroat habitat restoration.

The other stumbling block is availability - while the Lahontans are doing great in Pyramid right now, that lake-specific strain that grows so large is still a pretty small population, all things considered. Working with I believe the Shoshone tribe (who owns the hatchery out there) would be a project in and of itself to get Lahontan eggs. I mean, look at how long it took Utah to get golden trout eggs from Wyoming again!

Anyways - long story short, I don't think Lahontans in Utah will happen simply because they don't align with the state's long-term native cutthroat reintroduction goals. And if the state isn't actively working towards those goals, and cutthroat get listed on the endangered species list, the Feds will step in and we'll lose a lot of angling opportunities.

It's the same mess at Utah Lake with the pike in there now - if it's found that they're preying on June Suckers (which they are) and the state can't effectively rid the lake of the pike, then the Feds will step in and handle management, and our fishing opportunities could change there as well.

Sorry for the lengthy reply - this is just a subject I'm pretty passionate about. If I had my way, I'd restore cutthroat to every body of water in the West where they were before we came out here and ruined things.
 

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Pyramid Lake is a moderately alkaline lake and Pyramid Lake Lahontans are thus adapted to do best in alkaline waters. I don't know what the water chemistry is in many of our Utah lakes, but if we had an alkaline one, Lahontans would be a possibility. As for a lake that has a bunch of chubs and limited to no risk of hybridization with Bonnies or CRC's, Minersville comes to mind. (assuming we can keep water in it) Of course, it may put a damper on the blossoming wiper fishery however.

As for getting Lahontans here, if the DWR was serious about it, they would just need a few for brood stock and they would take it from there. These could either be collected from Pilot mountain or received from the Lahontan fish hatchery, which is run by the USFWS.

http://www.fws.gov/lahontannfhc/index.html
 

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Catherder, your thoughts were similar to where mine were headed. Places like Minersville would be interesting to see what lahontans would do...

...getting a brood stock would be as easy as getting fish from Pilot Peak...which is exactly what happened with the Pyramid Lake fish. In fact, it was a Utah biologist that found those fish and stocked them into small ponds and found them growing to really big fish.

But, unfortunately, even in places where the risk of messing up native populations doesn't exist--like Minersville--the chance of any lahontans making it to Utah reservoirs, at the present, is very very low. But, one could still hope and imagine!
 

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Like Catherder said, the native cutthroat on the northern, Snake River drainage side of the Raft River Mtns would be Yellowstone cutthroats. Any native cutthroat on the Lake Bonneville side (if any original native cutthroat populations actually even still exist there), would be from the Bonneville cutthroat group, despite any minor differences that might exist between them and others found elsewhere in the basin.
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/24/us/lahontan-cutthroat-trout-make-a-comeback.html?_r=0
Prior to deer, selenium, and herbicides, Bonneville cutts(and birds) were my thing as a teenager 20+ years ago. Back in the '60s it was believed by many that there were no pure strain Bonneville cutts left in Utah. My grandfather maintained other wise, and many of the streams with pure Bonnevilles in them that he use to try to tell the "biologists" about back then, are now known as some of the best core habitat streams for Bonneville cutts........

So starting around 20 years ago I would get out the maps and go looking for small out of the way streams and "natives" as my grandfather called them. Several streams in the Rafts were some of the first on my list. Most of what we caught on the South slope were rainbows, with a few rare "cutt-bows". There are two streams on the South slope I have not fished, one I probably never will, but the other is still on the list. So far I don't know of any natives on the South slope, not that they couldn't exist. Things have changed a lot in 20 years out there, you could not even think of doing what we did back then now.

On the North slope you will find Snake river/Yellowstone cutts in Charleston, Johnson, George, and Clear creek. I've hiked the lengths of lake fork and Rosevere fork, both tributaries of Clear creek, and while they both look really good, I've never caught anything in them. Awesome country regardless.
 

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spencerD -- just out of curiosity, I'm wondering why you don't give any credit (ie: mention his name) to the Utah biologist that was the person who actually found those Pilot Peak lahontan cutthroat?

He certainly deserves a huge amount of credit for these fish, and yet you never, ever, ever hear mention of his name....
 
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