This is the only trout native to Utah. It is often referred to as the "native" trout. Over the years the cutthroat has hybridized with other trout species, in particular the rainbow, so it is sometimes difficult to distinguish. The cutthroat gets its name from the "cut throat" markings, typically a red or orange slash located on either side of the lower jaw. But because of inner-breeding, the slashes may or may not be present. Often, the most reliable way to distinguish a cutthroat is by its orangish pectoral and anal fins. The back and sides of the fish are typically a steel-gray color accented with small, black dots. These dots tend to be more regular in size and shape than in other members of the trout family and are typically concentrated towards the tail. The tail of the cutthroat is slightly forked and this is a fish with long, sharp teeth.
The cutthroat starts life by feeding on small crustaceans and aquatic insets, then switches to fish, which makes them the choice of many biologists to help control nuisance fish, such as the Utah chub. The cutthroat trout does well in high-altitude lakes. They are more costly to raise, which is one reason most of the fish planted in Utah are rainbow. There is a strong management program in place in Utah to increase the number of Colorado cutthroat in order to keep it off the endangered list. The cutthroat is typically not as acrobatic when hooked as the rainbow.
Most of the cutthroat found in high-mountain streams and lakes are around a pound or less. The world record is 41 pounds, but even cutthroat in the 10- to 15-pound range today are rare. The Utah record is a 26-pound, 12-ounce fish caught in Strawberry Reservoir back in 1930.
Cutthroat trout prefer colder water temperatures and are usually found in higher elevation reservoirs such as Scofield and Strawberry, and in higher natural lakes such as those in the Uinta and Boulder mountains. They will live in spring-fed creeks and tailwaters, but do not compete well against brown or rainbow trout. Most of Utah's higher creeks and rivers have populations of cutthroat that are sustained by natural reproduction.
Byron Gunderson, Fish Tech Outfitters, contributed to this story.