New regulations went into effect for Strawberry Reservoir in Jan, 2003. Anglers are required to release all cutthroat trout from 15 to 22 inches long.
While the new regulations still allow anglers to keep up to 4 fish in the aggregate, only three can be cutthroat trout. Anglers can have two cutthroat trout under 15 inches and one over 22 inches in their possession.
The Utah Wildlife Board approved the regulations for the following reasons:
Utah chubs are becoming more prominent in the fishery.
Bear Lake cutthroat co-evolved with Utah chubs and will thrive and effectively utilize chubs for food, once they have grown large enough to prey on them.
Strawberry sustains nearly 1.5 million hours of angling pressure and Utah’s anglers harvested 380,000 trout (274 tons of fish) from Strawberry Reservoir during 2001. This level of harvest is not sustainable.
Intensive angler harvest is currently cropping off most of the cutthroats before they reach a size where they can effectively prey on other fishes and spawn in tributary streams.
Good populations of large cutthroat trout (greater than 20 inches) are critical to maintaining a productive sport fishery at Strawberry well into the future.
“In order to achieve management goals for Strawberry, the short-term harvest of cutthroat trout had to be greatly reduced,” said Roger Wilson, Strawberry Reservoir project leader for the Division of Wildlife Resources.
“However, in an attempt to make more fish available for anglers to keep, the Division of Wildlife Resources is increasing the numbers of rainbow trout stocked in Strawberry Reservoir by 59 percent in 2003, and will stock even more if they are available,” he said.
Wilson said catch rates should continue to be excellent at Strawberry, but the numbers of fish that anglers can keep will be greatly reduced in 2003. By 2004, when the increased numbers of rainbow trout get large enough for anglers to keep, and larger numbers of cutthroat grow beyond 22 inches, then anglers should have more fish to harvest.
“It will take 3 to 5 years to know if increased numbers of larger cutthroat trout will stabilize the chub population at appropriate levels,” Wilson said. “Anglers should realize that predatory trout will never completely decimate chub populations, but they can maintain a balance in the population that will sustain a healthy and productive fishery.”
Anglers can help substantially by practicing good catch and release techniques. They can also help by visually knowing the differences between rainbow and cutthroat trout.
One of the most reliable diagnostic features that distinguishes these two trout species is fin coloration. The Bear Lake strain of cutthroat trout found in Strawberry exhibits deep orange pelvic and anal fins (i.e. the paired belly fins and single medial fin behind the vent), whereas the rainbow trout has translucent pink to gray-green pelvic and anal fins that are tipped in white.
In addition, Bear Lake cutthroat have sparsely scattered, large and very distinctly rounded spots over the upper body, with few spots on or near the head. Rainbow trout, on the other hand, are characterized by more dense, irregularly shaped spots on the back, sides and head.
Bear Lake cutthroat often lack the bright crimson jaw slash that, at times, may be yellow, gray, or even nonexistent, and the slash is not a good distinguishing characteristic.
For more specific fish identification information, please refer to page 26 of the 2003 Utah Fishing Proclamation.
Copyright Dave Webb, 2005