I have been researching the history of sunapee trout in the sawtooths and realized that I caught some fish in sawtooth Lake about 7 years ago that I assumed were brook trout, but when I re-examined these pictures I realized they might be sunapees. According to what I have been able to find, the only two lakes with established sunapee populations are Alice Lake and Sawtooth Lake, and these lakes aren't listed under the bodies of water that contain brook trout in the Salmon region. Are there other char species in Sawtooth lake such as brook trout and/or lake trout, or did I in fact catch sunapee trout?
Your question is interesting and timely.
Sunapee (which are a type of char and related to lake trout, brook trout and bull trout) were stocked in several lakes in the Sawtooths over 50 years ago. Over the years we've had anglers catch Sunapee and bring them to our offices for identification. We don't advertise this unique fishing opportunity because of the risk of over exploitation.
This past year, the Forest Service started collecting water samples from various lake outflows in the Stanley Basin area and running eDNA analysis in an attempt to identify the various fish species in each waterbody. This process is new and evolving. In a very basic sense, unique DNA markers or sequences from aquatic organisms can be isolated and identified, so we can tell what fish species exist in a water just by analyzing a water sample and analyzing DNA.
In Hell Roaring Lake, it showed a positive eDNA sequence for lake trout. This was baffling because lake trout have never been stocked in the lake and have not been stocked upstream. Our records did show Sunapee being stocked in a lake just upstream of Hell Roaring Lake and both waters are connected by a surface stream. Because genetic eDNA markers haven't been developed for Sunapee, and they are a close relative of lake trout, we suspect a reminant population of Sunapee are being detected in the sample.
Stay tuned because our fisheries staff will conduct focused sampling on Hell Roaring Lake in 2016 to verify the fish community.