Video: Utah Introduces Native Cutthroat Slam Program

Written by: Spencer Durrant

After nearly two decades of work, a Utah cutthroat slam is becoming a reality for anglers interested in catching and learning more about the Beehive State’s native cutthroat trout.

Many Western fishermen are familiar with the Wyoming Cutt Slam, in addition to Nevada’s Fish Slam, and while Utah’s slam was inspired in part by the success of the Wyoming program, the folks in charge of the slam in Utah have given anglers a unique opportunity.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) and Trout Unlimited (TU) have partnered to bring the cutthroat slam to Utah. According to DWR Northern Region Aquatics Manager Paul Thompson, the partnership between the DWR and TU is the first of its kind in the country.

“It’s a great opportunity to educate the public about the value of native fish, and the unique characteristics of the varieties,” Brett Prettyman, Intermountain Communications Director for TU, says. “That’s one of the reasons TU is interested.”

The Bonneville Cutthroat is one of four species native to Utah.
Photo courtesy UDWR

Both Thompson and Prettyman have been pushing for a Utah cutthroat slam for more than 20 years, and thanks in large part to their efforts, it’s now a reality.

“We had some folks in TU, Prettyman specifically, [pushing for this] and I’ve been mentioning this in my twenty-one years with the DWR, so I offered to step up to the plate to do some additional legwork within the agency,” Thompson said.
What really turned this program into a reality, however, was the precedent set by Wyoming’s Cutt Clam.

“These slams are feasible and successful,” Thompson said. “People have a passion and want to see this through.”

Thompson also credited others within the DWR for their work in making the slam a reality. In order for the slam to be a success, it’s required close coordination with TU. The DWR has provided TU with photos, videos, maps, and information on where to find all of Utah’s native cutthroat. This information will be hosted on the Utah Cutthroat Slam website, which is managed by TU.

Bear River Cutthroat.
Photo courtesy UDWR

What fish are native to Utah?

Utah is home to four distinct subspecies of cutthroat trout – the Colorado River, Bonneville, Bear River, and Yellowstone. In order for a fish to count towards an angler’s slam completion, the fish must be caught from their native range. Anglers will have to take a picture of themselves or the fish and note both the date and location of where the fish was caught.

After an angler catches all four native cutthroat species, they’ll submit the information through the DWR website, where their slam application will be evaluated.

How does the slam work?
The Utah Cutthroat Slam works in similar fashion to Wyoming’s. People who want to participate will go to the DWR website to register. There, they’ll be charged a $20 fee and given a permit to begin participating in the slam.

Wyoming’s slam is free, but Utah is charging $20 per applicant in order to raise more money for conservation. A hefty $18-19 of that application fee goes directly toward cutthroat projects in the state.

Colorado River Cutthroat
Photo by Charles Card/Trout Unlimited

Accounting for money has been a hot topic in Utah of late, with plenty of furor over the annual Western Hunting and Conservation Expo. However, Utahns (and other anglers interested in completing this slam) can rest easy knowing the money is going to be publicly accounted for.

“The money will go into a DWR account,” Thompson said. “That account cannot be touched by other sections with the DWR. That account is going to be specific for cutthroat trout projects.”

Prettyman also voiced TU’s support for the $20 application fee, saying that it will, “Provide investment for the future and educate people” on the importance of native trout in the West.

After participants register for the slam, they’ll be encouraged to visit the Utah Cutthroat Slam website, where anglers can find information on waters to target native fish in, maps, videos, and information on the fish themselves.
What do participants receive?

After successful completion of the slam, anglers will not only receive a certificate, an a very cool medallion, as well. The medallion was designed by TU and is very much worth displaying on your desk at work or in your den at home. The completion of a slam will also be recognized on the Utah Cutthroat Slam website and the Slam’s Facebook page.

Yellowstone Cutthroat.
Photo courtesy UDWR

Anglers can also complete the slam more than once, if they so desire. They’ll have to pay the $20 fee again, though.

In addition, there is no time limit for anglers to complete the slam. Once a permit is bought, anglers can take as long as they need in order to complete the slam.

Utah’s cutthroat slam will provide anglers with an opportunity to learn more about their state’s native fish, chase those fish in some of the state’s most remote locations (the Yellowstone cutthroat will be the hardest of all the fish to catch). Plus, it will provide the DWR with more money to invest in cutthroat restoration projects. In an American West that’s increasingly becoming more populated, it’s refreshing, from a conservation standpoint, to see such an emphasis being put on conserving and protecting one of the West’s most incredible resources – the cutthroat trout.

Spencer Durrant is a fly fishing writer from Utah and author of the upcoming YA novel, Learning to Fly. He authors the monthly Trout Bum column for Ogden, Utah’s Standard-Examiner, a bi-weekly column for Fishwest, a weekly column for Trout Life, and is a regular contributor to Hatch Magazine, On The Fly Magazine, and the Orvis Fly Fishing Blog. Connect with him on Twitter or Instagram, @Spencer_Durrant, or on Facebook .

The Cutthroat Slam medallion is definitely display-worthy.
Photo courtesy UDWR

12 thoughts on “Video: Utah Introduces Native Cutthroat Slam Program”

      1. I noticed that, I’m more curious as to what drove the DWR to put River vs. Lake on the coin. Not that it matters, more of an observation.

    1. Those are good thoughts everybody. I can’t speak to the specific reasons for the UDWR making these distinctions, but there is some scientific backing for the distinction. I have attended recent American Fisheries Society meetings where interior cutthroat trout genetics have been discussed. The recent findings based on work of geneticists at BYU indicate that cutthroat trout in the Bear River and Bear Lake are more genetically similar to Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout than Bonnevilles in the main Bonneville basin. Officially Bear River cutthroat trout are still classified as Bonnies and there is not a difference between Bear Lake and Bear River cutthroat trout other than their life history. There may be some movement by the AFS to define the Bear River cutthroat trout as a distinct subspecies, but I would guess that is several years away. Functionally the cutthroat trout in the Bonneville Basin are managed at the river system level in an effort not to mix cutthroat trout strains. Granted some mixing has happened in the past, mainly through stocking Bear Lake cutthroat trout into reservoirs in the Weber River. But the Weber actually has a natural mix of Bear River and Bonneville cutthroat trout.

    2. Why you gotta be so technical all the time Mr. Sickles? Lake, Stream, River, They’re all water… Duh… BAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHLALALALALALALA

  1. Wow, they sure make it easy to find ’em. That list is pretty extensive and exacting. Where’s the fun in that? Wyoming’s Cutt Slam at least requires a little exploration for the harder to find sub-species.

  2. The bonneville and bear pictures are reversed. And wyoming arguably easier to do. You can catch three subspecies in a couple square miles. You gotta go way the f out in northwest utah to get one sub.

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