Discover The Largest Bonneville Cutthroat Ever Caught In Idaho

Written by Alan Lemus
Updated: June 30, 2023
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The Bonneville cutthroat trout is a unique and iconic species native to the Bonneville Basin, which includes parts of Idaho, Utah, and Nevada. As with many native species, Bonneville cutthroat trout populations have faced significant challenges in recent decades, including habitat loss, non-native species introductions, and overfishing. But ongoing conservation and restoration efforts are providing hope for the future of this native species. 

In this article, we discover the largest Bonneville cutthroat trout ever caught in Idaho and worldwide. We also explore the history, habitat, distribution, diet, predators, fishing opportunities, conservation and restoration efforts, and future of the fish species in Idaho. 

The Largest Bonneville Cutthroat Ever Caught In Idaho

The largest Bonneville cutthroat ever caught in Idaho weighed 18.94 lbs. Angler Roger Gruning caught the fish at Bear Lake on April 30, 1970.

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The Largest Bonneville Cutthroat Ever Caught Worldwide

The International Game Fish Association (IGFA) record for the largest Bonneville cutthroat trout ever caught was set by James R. Bramlett on August 9, 2013. He caught a 41-lbs. Bonneville cutthroat at Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Utah. 

The Bonneville cutthroat trout is a unique and iconic species native to the Bonneville Basin, which includes parts of Idaho, Utah, and Nevada. 

©Matt Jeppson/Shutterstock.com

Where Is Bear Lake Located On A Map?

Bear Lake is in the southeastern corner of Idaho near the Cache mountain range, near the city of Fish Haven. Half of the lake is located in Idaho, while the other half is located in Utah. Idaho is located in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It is bordered by Washington and Oregon to the west, Montana and Wyoming to the east, Utah and Nevada to the south, and the Canadian Province of British Columbia to the north.

Bonneville Cutthroat Trout’s History In Idaho

Historically, the Bonneville cutthroat trout played a vital role in the cultural and ecological heritage of the Bonneville Basin region. It served as an important food source for indigenous peoples and early settlers.

Native Range and Significance

The Bonneville cutthroat trout was once abundant throughout the Bonneville Basin, including Idaho. Native peoples, such as the Shoshone-Bannock and Nez Perce tribes, relied on this fish for food and cultural ceremonies. Later, as European settlers moved into the region, the Bonneville cutthroat trout became an important resource for recreational fishing.

Decline And Rediscovery

By the mid-twentieth century, Bonneville cutthroat trout populations in Idaho had experienced a significant decline due to various factors, including:

  • Overfishing
  • Habitat loss
  • The introduction of non-native fish species

In the 1970s, scientists began to recognize the unique genetic traits and cultural significance of the Bonneville cutthroat trout and initiated efforts to protect and restore its populations.

Current Status

Today, Bonneville cutthroat trout populations in Idaho continue to face threats. But ongoing conservation and restoration efforts are providing hope for the future of this native species. The Bonneville cutthroat trout is currently listed as a species of concern under the Endangered Species Act. Efforts are underway to conserve and restore its populations and habitats.

Diet And Feeding Habits

The Bonneville cutthroat trout is a unique and essential species in the Bonneville Basin. Its diverse diet and feeding habits are crucial to its survival and ecological function. Let’s explore the diet and feeding habits of the Bonneville cutthroat trout in Idaho.

Prey Species

Bonneville cutthroat trout are opportunistic feeders that consume various prey species, including aquatic insects, crustaceans, and small fish. Insects such as mayflies, caddisflies, and stoneflies are an important food source for Bonneville cutthroat trout, particularly during their early life stages.

Foraging Behavior

Bonneville cutthroat trout typically forage during the daytime, using a combination of visual and olfactory cues to locate prey. They’re active predators and will chase and capture prey, as well as use ambush tactics to capture unsuspecting prey. As they mature, Bonneville cutthroat trout tend to shift towards a diet of larger prey, such as fish and crayfish.

Predators

Bonneville cutthroat trout in Idaho face various natural predators, which can impact their populations and overall health. Let’s explore some of the main predators of Bonneville Cutthroat Trout in Idaho.

Natural Predators

Bonneville cutthroat’s natural predators include birds of prey, aquatic predators, and terrestrial predators.

  • Birds of prey. Bonneville cutthroat trout in Idaho face predation from various bird species, including bald eagles, ospreys, and herons.
  • Aquatic predators. Bonneville cutthroat trout are also preyed upon by larger fish species, including mountain whitefish, rainbow trout, smallmouth bass, brook trout, and brown trout. River otters are also known to prey on Bonneville cutthroat trout in Idaho’s waterways.
  • Terrestrial predators. Terrestrial predators such as raccoons and mink are also known to prey on Bonneville cutthroat trout in Idaho, particularly during the spawning season when they’re more vulnerable.

Human Impact

Human activities also affect Bonneville cutthroat trout populations in Idaho. 

  • Angling pressure. While natural predators play an important role in regulating populations, human activities such as angling can impact predator-prey dynamics. For example, overfishing or excessive angling pressure can reduce the number of predators, increasing prey populations and potential overpopulation.
  • Habitat alteration affecting predator-prey dynamics. Habitat alteration caused by human activities, such as land development and water diversions, can also impact predator-prey dynamics. Alterations to the habitat can lead to changes in predator behavior, potentially reducing the effectiveness of natural predators in regulating prey populations.

Habitat And Distribution

Let’s explore the habitat preferences and distribution of the Bonneville cutthroat trout in Idaho.

Habitat Preferences

Bonneville cutthroat trout are typically found in cool, clear streams and rivers with abundant cover, such as undercut banks, boulders, and woody debris. They require cold water temperatures to survive and reproduce. Additionally, they’re sensitive to habitat disturbances, such as sedimentation and pollution.

Distribution In Idaho

In Idaho, you’ll find Bonneville cutthroat populations mainly in the eastern and central parts of the state, including:

  • Henrys Fork of the Snake River
  • Bear River Basin
  • Blackfoot River Drainage

While historically widespread throughout the state, Bonneville cutthroat trout populations have declined due to several factors, including habitat loss, non-native species introductions, and overfishing.

Palisades Reservoir

Palisades Reservoir, Bonneville County, Idaho, is a great place to fish Bonneville cutthroat trout.

©iStock.com/Edelmira Botello

Conservation And Restoration Efforts

Conservation and restoration efforts for the Bonneville cutthroat trout in Idaho have been ongoing for several decades, aiming to protect and restore the species and its habitat. 

Let’s explore some of the main conservation and restoration efforts that have been undertaken in Idaho to support the recovery of Bonneville cutthroat trout populations.

Species Conservation

With Bonneville cutthroat trout currently listed as a species of concern, conservation efforts are underway to protect and restore its populations and habitats. These efforts include:

  • Developing recovery plans
  • Protecting critical habitats
  • Removing non-native species that pose a threat to Bonneville cutthroat trout populations

Habitat Restoration

Habitat restoration is a critical component of Bonneville cutthroat trout conservation and management. Restoration efforts include:

  • Removing barriers to fish passage
  • Restoring riparian vegetation
  • Improving instream habitat conditions

These efforts aim to restore the natural conditions that Bonneville cutthroat trout rely on for their survival and reproduction.

Public Education And Outreach

Public education and outreach are important components of Bonneville cutthroat trout conservation and management. By raising awareness of the importance of protecting and restoring native fish species like the Bonneville cutthroat trout, public education can help to build support for conservation efforts and encourage responsible fishing practices.

Collaboration

Collaboration between government agencies, conservation organizations, and other stakeholders is critical for the success of Bonneville cutthroat trout conservation and restoration efforts. Through collaboration, stakeholders can share resources, expertise, and information and work together to develop effective strategies for protecting and restoring Bonneville cutthroat trout populations and habitats.

Bonneville Cutthroat Trout Fishing Locations In Idaho

Bonneville cutthroat trout are a prized catch among recreational anglers in Idaho. They’re known for their beauty, fighting ability, and elusive nature. While these fish can be found in many waterways throughout Idaho, some locations are particularly known for their abundance and trophy-sized fish. 

Whether you’re a seasoned angler or new to the sport, these locations offer excellent opportunities for catching Bonneville Cutthroat Trout and experiencing the natural beauty of Idaho’s waterways.

Let’s find out some of the best locations for fishing Bonneville cutthroats in Idaho. 

Bear Lake And Bear River

These two offer some of the best opportunities for catching Bonneville cutthroat trout in Idaho. The lake is known for producing trophy-sized fish, while the river provides excellent fly and spin fishing opportunities.

Blackfoot River

The Blackfoot River is another popular location for catching Bonneville cutthroat trout in Idaho, with a mix of riffles, pools, and deep runs providing a variety of fishing opportunities.

Upper Snake River Tributaries

The Upper Snake River tributaries offer excellent opportunities for fly fishing for Bonneville cutthroat trout. They have numerous public access points. The tributaries include:

  • The Henrys Fork
  • Teton River

Other Lesser-Known Spots

Many other lesser-known locations throughout Idaho provide excellent opportunities for catching Bonneville cutthroat trout. Some of these locations include:

  • The South Fork of the Boise River
  • The Portneuf River
  • The Blackfoot Reservoir

The Upper Snake River tributaries offer excellent opportunities for fly fishing for Bonneville cutthroat trout.

©Tucker James/Shutterstock.com

Bonneville Cutthroat Trout Fishing Techniques And Tips

Catching Bonneville cutthroat trout in Idaho requires a combination of skill, patience, and knowledge of effective fishing techniques. 

Whether you prefer the finesse and precision of fly fishing or the versatility and accessibility of spin fishing, several techniques and strategies can help you improve your chances of catching these elusive and highly prized fish. 

With the right equipment, techniques, and knowledge, you can enjoy a successful and rewarding fishing experience while contributing to the conservation and management of Bonneville cutthroat populations in Idaho.

Let’s explore some of the most successful fishing techniques and tips for catching Bonneville cutthroat trout. 

Fly Fishing

Fly fishing is one of the most popular techniques for catching Bonneville cutthroat trout in Idaho, with various recommended flies and patterns available. Successful techniques include:

  • Dry fly fishing
  • Nymphing
  • Streamer fishing

Recommended flies and patterns for Bonneville cutthroat trout include dry flies such as the Adams and the Elk Hair Caddis, as well as nymph patterns like the Pheasant Tail and Hare’s Ear. Streamer patterns like the Woolly Bugger and the Clouser Minnow can also be effective.

Successful casting techniques for fly fishing include roll casting, overhead casting, and sidearm casting, with various casting styles and techniques to suit different fishing situations.

Spin Fishing

Spin fishing is another popular technique for catching Bonneville cutthroat trout in Idaho, with various recommended lures and bait available. Successful techniques include using lures such as spinners, spoons, and jigs, as well as live bait like worms and insects.

Recommended lures and bait for Bonneville cutthroat trout include:

  • Spinners like the Panther Martin and Mepps
  • Spoons like the Daredevil and Krocodile
  • Jigs like the Marabou Jig and the Hair Jig

Live bait like worms and grasshoppers can also be effective.

Successful retrieval techniques for spin fishing include:

  • Steady retrieves
  • Stop-and-go retrieves
  • Jigging

Different techniques and styles exist to suit different fishing situations.

Fishing Regulations And Ethics

To ensure responsible angling for Bonneville cutthroat trout in Idaho, following regulations and ethical guidelines is important.

  • Seasonal restrictions. Seasonal restrictions may be in place to protect spawning populations. Anglers should be aware of these restrictions and abide by them.
  • Catch and release guidelines. Catch and release guidelines should be followed to ensure the survival and health of released fish. These guidelines may include using barbless hooks, keeping fish in the water while handling them, and avoiding over-handling or injuring the fish.
  • Respect for private property and access. Anglers should respect private property and access rights, obtaining necessary permits and permissions.

The Future Of Bonneville Cutthroats In Idaho

The future of Bonneville cutthroats in Idaho depends on continued efforts to protect and restore its habitat and populations. Let’s explore some of the main factors that will influence the future of this iconic fish species in Idaho.

Climate Change

This is expected to significantly impact Bonneville cutthroat trout populations in Idaho. In addition, increasing temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns can lead to changes in streamflow and water temperatures. 

These changes could reduce the availability of suitable habitats and negatively impact the reproduction and survival of Bonneville cutthroat trout populations.

Non-Native Species

These pose a significant threat to Bonneville cutthroat trout populations in Idaho. In addition, species such as brown trout and smallmouth bass compete with and prey on Bonneville cutthroat trout. 

The continued introduction of non-native species could further threaten the viability of Bonneville cutthroat populations in the future.

Conservation And Restoration Efforts

Conservation and restoration efforts will play a critical role in the future of Bonneville cutthroats in Idaho. 

Ongoing efforts to protect and restore the species and its habitat will be essential to ensuring the long-term viability of Bonneville cutthroat trout populations in the state. They include

  • Removing barriers to fish passage
  • Restoring riparian vegetation
  • Developing management plans to reduce the impact of non-native species

Implications For The Future

The future of Bonneville cutthroat trout in Idaho is uncertain. But continued efforts to protect and restore its habitat and populations offer hope for its long-term viability. 

We can ensure that these native species continue to play a valuable role in the ecological and cultural heritage of the Bonneville Basin for generations to come by:

  • Addressing the challenges posed by climate change and non-native species
  • Investing in conservation and restoration efforts

Key Takeaways

The Bonneville cutthroat trout plays an important ecological and cultural role in Idaho. While populations have declined in recent years due to various factors, ongoing conservation and restoration efforts offer hope for the recovery of this native species.

By protecting and restoring the habitat of Bonneville cutthroat trout, addressing the challenges posed by climate change and non-native species, and promoting responsible fishing practices, we can ensure the long-term viability of this species and support sustainable recreational fishing in Idaho.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Matt Jeppson/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Alan is a freelance writer and an avid traveler. He specializes in travel content. When he visits home he enjoys spending time with his family Rottie, Opie.

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