Bonneville cutthroat trout are the key to good fishing at Strawberry Reservoir. If they do well, the reservoir has the potential to produce some of the best trout fishing in the US.

"The DWR isn't concerned about anglers keeping the rainbows, because they won't reproduce and were put in Strawberry to provide some take-home fish while the cutthroat are growing. But the cutthroat should be returned to the water if the Strawberry management program is to succeed."

"If cutthroat are allowed to survive and grow in the reservoir and reproduce in the streams, Strawberry will produce the greatest cutthroat fishing in the United States."

That's a pretty bold promise—the best cutthroat fishing in the whole country—but that's what a brochure produced by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources says.

But there's one catch—the cutthroat need a little help.

The brochure is about catch-andrelease fishing at Strawberry Reservoir. The DWR is encouraging anglers to release the cutthroat caught there so they can reproduce in the streams and naturally restock the big water.

With the ice leaving Strawberry, the DWR expects a lot of anglers to soon visit Strawberry, which was treated last summer and restocked with Bear Lake cutthroat and sterile rainbows. Kokanee salmon will also be stocked as fish are available.

Strawberry won't feature big fish yet, but the fish could be getting to nice sizes by later this summer and fall. Fishing for nice fish should be excellent next year.

The brochure notes that Strawberry's cutthroat must live to be five years old before they will reproduce. "Fishing for cutthroat trout in Strawberry will depend on YOU voluntarily releasing cutthroat trout," the brochure says. "Cutthroat are easily caught. If you do not voluntarily release them few will live long enough to reproduce. Voluntary catch-and-release gives you the opportunity to help develop wild native cutthroat in Strawberry Valley."

he DWR isn't concerned about anglers keeping the rainbows because they won't reproduce and were put in Strawberry to provide some take-home fish while the cutthroat are growing. But the cutthroat should be returned to the water if the Strawberry management program is to succeed.

When caught and released properly, there is a 90 percent chance the fish will survive.

Here are some tips from the brochure on releasing a fish properly.

1. Fish with artificial flies and lures. A fish taken on an artificial fly or lure is more likely to be caught around the mouth where it is usually easy to remove the hook. Fish taking bait are likely to swallow the hook. Efforts to remove the hook from a fish that swallowed it will generally kill the fish.

Barbless hook and lures are easier to remove from fish. The barbs can be bent down with pliers and removing extra hooks reduces the chances of a fish being snagged in more than one place. A single treble hook is difficult for fish to swallow, so it may cause less injury than other hooks.

Use of needle-nosed pliers or forceps sometimes makes removing a hook easier.

2. Bring the fish in quickly. Don't tire it out. Fish are affected by stress. The longer the fish struggles to escape the more lactic acid builds up in its muscles. This can kill a fish hours or days later after it is released even though the fish looked |

healthy when it swam away.

3. Keep the fish in the water. This will keep the fish healthier. The slime covering the fish is its protection from disease-causing microorganisms such as bacteria and parasites. Wet hands help preserve this layer.

4. Ayoid unnecessary contact with the fish. Usually a fish can be released without touching it or by only touching the jaw. Don't squeeze the body or eye sockets and never touch the gills. If you need a more secure hold, cradle the body of the fish in one hand and grip it just in front of the tail.

5. Cut the line if the fish is deeply hooked. Cut the line as close to the hook as possible. Do not pull on the line as it will pull on the gills or intestines and drive the hook point into internal organs. Most fish will survive because the hook will rust out from the action of the digestive fluids. Avoid using stainless steel, chrome or brass plated hooks.

6. Return the fish carefully to the water. If the fish has difficulty breathing or holding its balance, hold it upright and gently move it back and forth in the water. This passes water through its gills to help it breathe.

Special note: Most fish will swim away even if they were mishandled. This may be rewarding to the angler, but a fish that dies a day or a week later is of little value to the resource.

Of course, to release cutthroat, you need to be able to identify them. Here are some differences between a cutthroat and a rainbow. A cutthoat gets its name from the orange or red slash under it jaw. A rainbow has no bright color under its jaw. A cutthroat will have a steel gray to tan side color. A rainbow has a pinkish side color. A cutthroat will have a few large spots on its sides and back and very few spots near its head. A rainbow will have many small spots over most of its body and many small spots near its head. A cutthroat has smaller scales than a rainbow.

Have fun fishing at Strawberry Reservoir this year and into the future. But don't forget to release the cutthroat.

Copyright Dave Webb, 2005