State of the Trout: Native fish in Utah and Wyoming in peril

June 23, 2015

Jack Williams, Trout Unlimited senior scientist,, (541) 261-3960
Chris Hunt, Trout Unlimited national communications director,, (208) 406-9106
Brett Prettyman, Intermountain communications director,, (801-209-5320)


New Trout Unlimited report highlights challenges facing native trout in the U.S.

Irrigation infrastructure, wildfire and non-native fish among the biggest threats in the Intermountain region

WASHINGTON, D.C.North Americas already embattled native trout populations continue to face serious threats, according to a comprehensive new report released today by Trout Unlimited.

The State of the Trout details the status of 28 separate species and subspecies of trout and char native to the United States. Of those detailed populations, three are already extinct, and more than half of the remaining trout and char populations occupy less than 25 percent of their native waters. While the state of trout in America is tenuous, there are success stories that prove trout recovery is possible–the report lays out a roadmap for that recovery.

Trout Unlimiteds staff of scientists spent more than a year preparing the detailed report with input from TUs field staff and independent, federal and state fisheries experts. The full report is available in digital form at

Native trout are in trouble in the United States, said Chris Wood, Trout Unlimiteds president and CEO in the reports foreword. But we are making a difference and with help, involvement and action can promise a future of recovery, not one of loss, for our children.

Non-native species and climate change head a long list of challenges facing trout in Utah and Wyoming. The regions trout also are under pressure from increased demand on water resources, loss and degradation of habitat and different types of energy development.

While bringing attention to challenges facing trout, the report highlights many success stories.

Bonneville cutthroat trout once dominated the 500 miles of the Bear River in Utah, Wyoming and Idaho. Throughout their history, mature cutthroat migrated up tributaries of the Bear River to spawn. Over the past 60 years artificial barriers constructed for irrigation blocked some tributaries and prevented trout from traditional spawning areas. Trout Unlimited worked with federal and state agencies, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and local stakeholders to remove nearly 50 barriers and reconnect more than 150 miles of habitat allowing migratory Bonneville cutthroat to return to headwaters every spring to spawn.

This report is something of a call-to-arms: not for a new or radically different approach to native trout restoration, but to continue and scale up our efforts to work collaboratively with water users of all stripes to reconnect habitats, improve water quality and instream flows, and address threats like disease, invasive species and catastrophic wildfire, said Tim Hawkes, director of TUs Utah Water Project. Cutthroat are tough, resilient fish, well-adapted to life in harsh environments. We just need to ensure they have enough water to breathe, space to migrate and quality habitats that allow them to not only survive, but thrive.

Small and isolated populations of Bonneville cutthroats are vulnerable. Wildfire is one of the greatest threats to these fragmented populations. Native cutthroat trout in the Sevier River of Utah reside in less than 10 percentthe average population extent is roughly 4 milesof their historical range. While this isolation has maintained Bonneville cutthroat genetic integrity, it also makes them highly susceptible to events like drought and wildfire that are made more severe by climate change.

But theres hope, as demonstrated by TUs work in Wyoming and Utah to reconnect important habitat for native cutthroat trout.

TU reconnects and restores habitat for trout through partnerships with the agriculture industry and resource agencies, said Cory Toye, director of TUs Wyoming Water Project. Thanks to the active participation of private landowners in Wyoming, hundreds of miles of mainstem and tributary habitat is available for Bonneville cutthroat trout for the first time in decades. Reconnecting migratory corridors through the implementation of win-win solutions on the ground will ensure Bonneville cutthroat trout persist for future generations.

The State of the Trout report simply serves to highlight the threats facing native cutthroat trout in Utah and Wyoming, and then lays out a comprehensive, easy-to-follow set of guidelines that will, if the science is followed, lead to a future with native trout in it.

"This report is the most comprehensive review of the status of wild and native trout of its kind, said Jeff Kershner, director of the Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center for the U.S. Geological Survey. Its truly a landmark document. We have known for a long time now that as trout go, ultimately we go."

Fishing is all about maintaining a positive attitude. As long as hope remains, Wood says Trout Unlimited will endeavor to help native fish.

People who fish are eternal optimists, Wood said. Even the most cynical among us, on the last cast of the day, are confident we will catch the biggest fish of the day. That optimism and hope for the future breathes through this report.

Read the report today at

To download print and web-ready photos that correspond to the report:
Password is: SOT

To download broadcast-quality video and b-roll footage that correspond to the report:

Trout Unlimited is the nations oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North Americas trout and salmon and their watersheds. Follow TU on Facebook and Twitter, and follow our blog for all the latest information on trout and salmon conservation.