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Earn a Medallion Have Some Fun


Colorado River Cutthroat Trout
Colorado River Cutthroat Trout

Utah's new Cutthroat Slam sees its first completions

Utah's Cutthroat Slam is only three months old, and nine people have already caught the four cutthroat trout needed to complete it. Division of Wildlife Resources biologists and staff with Trout Unlimited are excited about the number of people who have registered to participate. The 340 people who had registered by June 28 included 38 anglers from outside the state.

"Having people catch native fish in their historic habitat is just another way for all anglers to enjoy the native wildlife and natural wonders of our state," says Brett Prettyman, Intermountain communications director for Trout Unlimited.

"Fishing is just an excuse to get outside and enjoy our wild places," he says. "The Utah Cutthroat Slam puts an exclamation point on the adventure."

To complete the slam, you need to register and then catch the four cutthroat troutóBear River, Bonneville, Colorado River and Yellowstoneóthat are native to Utah.

You can learn more, and register to participate, at www.utahcutthroatslam.org.

An exciting adventure

It took Colton Finch less than one month to complete the slam. When he landed a Bear River cutthroat on April 27, Finch became the first angler to earn the slam medallion and certificate.

Earning the honor of being the first angler to complete the slam was not Finch's intention, but he is pleased with the result.

Finch first heard about the Utah Cutthroat Slam while attending a meeting of the American Fisheries Society's Utah Chapter in March, just before the program launched on April 1.

He purchased his slam permit on April 9 (you must purchase the permit before pursuing the slam) and then started an epic journey that included flat tires, numerous wildlife sightings and a lot fish.

"I took my little car to a couple of places that I shouldn't have," Finch says, "and blew a tire."

Because cutthroat trout are usually found at higher elevations, the slam took Finch to places he'd never seen before.

"Pursuing the slam was a lot of fun because it forced me to visit beautiful parts of the state I had never taken the trouble to fish," he says. "Sometimes, I was stumbling through snow, sometimes I was trudging through mud, sometimes I was bushwhacking in the willows, but I was always having fun."

Along the way, Finch spotted mule deer, elk, turkey, golden and bald eagles, dusky and ruffed grouse, ducks and geese, beavers, muskrats and countless songbirds.

He also landed a number of fish that aren't part of the slam. In fact, one of his biggest obstacles was keeping nonnative brown trout off his hook while fishing for the Bear River cutthroat.

"I only caught my last one, the Bear River, after catching about 15 wild brown trout in a row," he says. "It was a great problem to have, but I was desperate for a cutthroat, and I finally hooked one. When I did, I danced around on the riverbank in celebration.

"I'm happy to know the money [raised through the slam] will be used for cutthroat trout conservation in Utah, because I had a blast fishing for them."

Finch's experience is a good example of what the Division of Wildlife Resources and Trout Unlimited were hoping would happen when anglers participated in the slam. Prettyman says TU staff and DWR biologists are in the process of identifying conservation projects that money generated through the slam can be used for. A project on the Weber River in northern Utah, and Mill Creek in central Utah, are among those they're considering.