Discover the Official State Fish of Utah (And Where You Might Spot It This Summer)

Matt Jeppson/Shutterstock.com

Written by Kyle Glatz

Updated: September 8, 2023

Share on:

Advertisement


Utah is known for its great expanses of natural areas. Some people flock to the state to enjoy its ski resorts and others go to explore its national parks. Still, some people are far more interested in fishing in the numerous lakes found throughout the state. Of all the fish found in the state, only one is named the state fish. Discover the official state fish of Utah and find out all about it as well as where you might find it this summer!

What is the State Fish of Utah?

State animal infographic for the state fish of Utah, the Bonneville cutthroat trout.
This trout has recovered from near extinction, although it is still carefully monitored.

The official state fish of Utah is the Bonneville cutthroat trout. The Bonneville cutthroat trout was named the state fish in 1997, but it was not the first given the title.

Originally, the rainbow trout was called the state fish going back to its adoption in 1971. However, the rainbow trout is not a native fish to Utah, and it did not hold the same significance to the people of the state. The Bonneville cutthroat trout was a very important fish for people that lived in Utah throughout its history. When settlers pushed westward in the 19th century, the fish became a significant source of sustenance for them as well.

As a result, the switch was made in 1997, and the Bonneville cutthroat trout has been the state fish ever since.

About the Bonneville Cutthroat Trout

Cutthroat in water with fishing hook in its mouth

Cutthroat trout are named for the red or orange patch on their throats.

The Bonneville cutthroat trout (Salmo clarki utah) is a fish found in parts of Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Nevada. The fish has a yellow-green to grey body with round spots spread across its body. These fish are differentiated from other members species of trout by the presence of basibranchial teeth and the patch of red or orange on their throats from which their name is derived.

However, the Bonneville cutthroat trout is unique in that it may not have the bright red or orange coloration, especially if the fish is found in the Bear Lake region.

These fish usually measure somewhere between 18 and 25 inches, but larger specimens have been pulled from local waters. These fish prefer to live in well-oxygenated streams, rivers, and lakes in high elevations. They prefer waters with a gravelly substrate along with places to hide, like vegetation or submerged structures. The larger specimens can weigh as much as 40 pounds or more!

How the Bonneville Cutthroat Trout Came Back from the Brink

Fishing - Holding a Brown Trout

Brown trout displaced many Bonneville cutthroat trout and had to be controlled to eliminate competition.

This subspecies has a rich history in Utah, but it looked as though the fish’s population would bottom out at one point. The official state fish of Utah was a popular fish throughout the 19th century, and it helped feed settlers as they spread across the West.

However, new people brought new types of fish, and brown trout were introduced to the waters that the Bonneville cutthroat trout called home. The fish competed for food and resources. Eventually, the population of the cutthroat trout, the only native trout in Utah, began to plummet. By the 1970s, experts surmised that the Bonneville cutthroat subspecies was almost completely extinct.

State and federal agencies came together to help monitor the population and work on ways to bolster the species’ population. First, they spent time trying to find where the fish was still alive and thriving. Then, they developed ways to reduce the population of brown trout by cutting off migration paths and using substances to kill the competing fish outright. The cutthroat population has significantly recovered due to these efforts. Nowadays, anglers can catch them in several locations throughout the state.

Where to Find the State Fish of Utah

Provo River Falls, Utah

The Provo River tumbles over a series of lovely waterfalls in Utah along Hwy 150 in the Uinta Mountains.

Although the population of the Bonneville cutthroat trout was bolstered by the timely action of conservationists, they are not as widespread as other fish in the state. Still, it’s possible to find these fish in a variety of different rivers, streams, and lakes.

In Utah, a great place to look is the Weber River, a popular place to find these trout. Also, the Provo River and Jordan River are places where a person can find these fish. They’re commonly found in Beaver Creek, Wolf Creek, Wheeler Creek, and many others.

It’s also possible to find these fish in some locations in Wyoming, Nevada, and Idaho. In Wyoming, the fish are often caught in the Smith Fork and Thomas Fork of the Bear River.

Nevada has a population of these cutthroat trout in the easternmost portions of the state along the border with Utah. They’re found in eastward-flowing streams in the Great Basin National Park and parts of Mt. Moriah.  

In Idaho, Bonneville cutthroat trout are often found in many places, most notably the Bear River and Bear Lake. Other areas where a person can catch these fish include the Blackfoot River and the Upper Snake River.  

Before going fishing at any of these places, it’s important to look at the local laws and regulations concerning the region. That way, you can fish without worries!

What Other Fish Live in Utah?

Tiger muskie

Tiger

muskies are large fish that put up a good fight.

Utah may not be a coastal state, but it has plenty of areas in which to go fishing. The lakes of Utah are packed with several kinds of fish. Some of the best fish to catch in Utah include striped bass, tiger trout, channel catfish, and the tiger muskie. The state has all sorts of fish that are worth catching for anglers.

Utah also has a whole host of different lakes that are worth exploring for anglers. Utah Lake alone is a destination that attracts fishers and wildlife lovers from all over the state and many others.

The official state fish of Utah has a storied past. The Bonneville cutthroat trout went from the brink of extinction to becoming recognized as the state’s fish in a matter of decades. Nowadays, this fish is celebrated and sought after. Fortunately, the fish may be found in various states aside from Utah, so many people have the opportunity to pursue this species.  


Share this post on:
About the Author

Kyle Glatz is a writer at A-Z-Animals where his primary focus is on geography and mammals. Kyle has been writing for researching and writing about animals and numerous other topics for 10 years, and he holds a Bachelor's Degree in English and Education from Rowan University. A resident of New Jersey, Kyle enjoys reading, writing, and playing video games.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.