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Salt Lake City, Utah

Urban Fishing:  Big Butte Bonnies

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Urban Fishing: Big Butte Bonnies

An Dinh

On my way back from teaching a lecture on diabetes, my friend Lance showed me a stream that drops down out of the canyon from the East and flows through neighborhoods close by.  The creek spends a lot of time underground but it arises for brief stretches in places throughout the city, including Liberty Park.  Some spots are fishless.  Like the spot in Liberty Park.  But the section I explored today holds a few aggressive cutties.

Sadly, the headwaters of this creek are closed to fishing.  It's a designated wildlife research area and is fenced off in the mountains.  This probably accounts for the surprising numbers of fish present in the little bits of stream I explored.

Many factors will dissuade a casual sportsman from attempting this creek.  Poison ivy is everywhere along the banks, so even standing in the creek made me itch a little.   And since the stream is running through neighborhoods in what amount to wooded ravines, it offers ungodly tight quarters with limited casting and hook setting opportunities.  Nothing is more frustrating  than to have fish swirling and rising all around you and no good way to catch them.   I lost too many fish to count by setting the hook only to find my rod stuck in the branches and the fish happily spitting the dry fly it just sipped.

It was just pure strain Bonneville cutthroat in these waters.  Named after the prehistoric Lake Bonneville that covered most of Utah.  When the glaciers gave way the lake burst and drained out to the Pacific, carving the Cascades and leaving behind a salty puddle we call the Great Salt Lake.  Once the area was cut off from the West coast, these stranded cutties were left to evolve to their unique surroundings. 

They are pretty in their own way, not as flashy in the gill plate, but the slash across the throat bleeds a bright crimson or tangerine in  contrast to the often charcoal cast of their flanks instead of the bright green on a green back cutthroat.   The first time I caught one, I thought maybe I had a brook trout, it was nearly black along its back and tail.  Their look is distinct and speaks to their unique adaptations to this drainage.  I heard a fisheries biologist say they are better able to tolerate high desert heat in low elevation streams than other trout.

They survived cataclysmic climate change and deserve clean clear creeks to call home.