Bear Lake Cutthroat

The turquoise waters of Bear Lake, bisected by the state lines of northern Utah and southern Idaho, are home to a beautifully hued cutthroat trout, known locally as a “bluenose trout”. The snout and back of this fish can be deep azure; its flanks are silvery blue and green with black spots; and its pectoral, pelvic and anal fins are tinted orange.

Bear Lake is surrounded by high chaparral desert and situated at 6,000 feet (1,829) above sea level. The days are hot and clear, the evenings are cool, and the water is deep and clean. In late winter and springtime, and again in autumn, anglers flock to the 20-mile-long (32 km) lake to catch large cutthroat and lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush). Bear Lake cutthroat trout have been known to reach well over 20 pounds (9 kg), but anglers can generally expect to catch fish from 22 to 24 inches (56-61 cm) and 3 to 4 pounds (1.4-2.3 kg). Lake trout are stocked heavily and commonly grow to be 10 to 15 pounds (4.5-6.8 kg).

When trout in Bear Lake reach a certain size they become piscivorous (fish-eating) and grow large on a diet of the lake’s endemic forage fishes, such as the Bonneville cisco (Prosopium gemmifer), the Bonneville whitefish (P. spilonotus), the Bear Lake whitefish (P. abyssicola), and the Bear Lake sculpin (Cottus extensus).

Joseph R. Tomelleri has traveled more than 135,000 miles to collect fish for his extraordinary drawings. More than one hundred of his illustrations appear in Trout and Salmon of North America (The Free Press), which Nick Lyons calls "a long overdue-and remarkable-book! [A] crowning achievement."

I have the pleasure of owning the “Trout of North America 2012 Calendar” and enjoying Joseph’s illustrations, habitat and natural history details for each month’s featured fish. I hope you enjoy them too and seek out these fish in the natural environment.