The Escalante River is home to six native fish species. Flannelmouth sucker and roundtail chub are primarily restricted to the mainstem Escalante River, below Mamie Creek and Harris Wash, respectively. Bluehead sucker and speckled dace can be found farther upstream and in the lower ends of some tributaries.
Colorado River cutthroat trout and mottled sculpin are coldwater species with more restricted distributions in the watershed. After extensive restoration work, Colorado River cutthroat trout now occupy over 26 miles of stream in four of the main tributary drainages. Mottled sculpin are restricted to the Boulder Creek drainage.
Colorado River cutthroat trout, bluehead sucker, flannelmouth sucker and roundtail chub are managed under Range-wide Conservation Agreements and Strategies (CAS). CAS’s enable management agencies and other partners to work together to conserve these species and their habitat.
Colorado River cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki pleuriticus)
The most colorful of the cutthroat trout, Colorado River cutthroat trout (CRCT) have light to deep red pigmentation along the jaw and belly and black spots along their rear and tail. In the Escalante River system CRCT generally grow from 8” to 14” in length in streams, but can reach over 20” in lakes. They need habitats with cool, well-oxygenated water. CRCT occupied habitat has grown to more than 14% of its historic range because of conservation actions.
Flannelmouth sucker (Catostomus latipinnis)
A large-bodied sucker, flannelmouth can grow to 30”. These fish are usually purple-hued on the back, while their bellies can be cream to yellow. Flannelmouth prefer deeper, slower water, with cover such as roots and overhanging branches, and can be observed in spawning congregations numbering more than 100 fish. Recent information indicates flannelmouth sucker occupy about 45% of their historic range.
Speckled Dace (Rhinicthys osculus)
Speckled dace are a minnow common throughout the western United States and are distributed widely throughout the Colorado River system. They can be found in small, high-elevation tributary streams and large, low-elevation, turbid rivers, as well as isolated spring systems. Speckled dace can grow from 4” to 6”. They are generally a mottled brown or golden in color with males developing orange to red coloration around the fins and mouth during breeding.
Roundtail chub (Gila robusta)
A large member of the minnow family, roundtail chub can grow up to 17” in length and are generally light green to silver in color, but often develop an orange hue around the fins while spawning. They have large eyes and fins and are a muscular fish. Roundtail chub tend to prefer slower, deeper water. Studies in the 2000’s indicated that roundtail chub occupied 18% to 45% of their historic range.
Bluehead sucker (Catostomus discobulus)
Bluehead suckers are a medium-sized sucker that can grow to 18”. Their head is typically bluish-gray with a blunt, bulbous snout. The body can be dark brown to gray, developing an orange stripe during spawning season. Bluehead sucker prefer areas of swift water and rocky river bottoms. An assessment in the early 2000’s indicated that bluehead sucker were restricted to approximately 50% of their historic range.
Mottled Sculpin (Cottus bairdi)
Mottled sculpin have a discontinuous but wide range throughout North America. They have a broad, flat head, large fins, and grow to about 6”. Sculpin are mottled brown/black with males developing reddish brown/cream colors along their top fin during breeding. They use their broad, flat heads and large pectoral fins to aid them in maintaining their position on the stream bottom, where they can better avoid predators. Sculpin require clear, well-oxygenated water and prefer habitats with cover.
Native fish illustrations provided by Ben Sutter, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources