I have a deep love for trout. Over the past few years, I have covered them as subjects in my articles a number of times. One of my very first blogs was about them, and they were my 200th blog as well! Already in our Fishy Facts series we have covered the rainbow and brook species. And this time we are going to cover one of my absolute favorite (and on my top “to-catch” list), the cutthroat trout!
Now before you start saying “Yarrgh” and imagining a trout with an eyepatch, peg-fin and an affinity for rum and ransacking stream banks… these fish are not in any way to be associated with pirates despite the name. They get this name due to the distinct red coloring below their jaw.
The cutthroat trout is native to North America, ranging from Pacific coastal tributaries to the Great Basin. Like most trout they prefer cooler waters that are well oxygenated and clear. “Trout don’t live in ugly places”. They prefer gravel bottomed stream/river but are also found in lakes and other bodies of water. There are several subspecies of this fish, some are extinct and others are endangered. Because of this they are raised in hatcheries to help support wild populations.
Not only are these fish one of my favorite, but also are those of several western states. The cutthroat trout (or a subspecies of it*) are the state fish for several places. Those states include: Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, New Mexico*, Utah*, Colorado* and Nevada*.
Cutthroat trout have been known to spawn with rainbow trout, giving us “cutbows”. This along with the fact that many areas have “stocked” cutthroat trout can make it quite a challenge to catch a true wild fish. It may be because of this that these fish hold so much allure for so many people. Many consider fly-fishing the purest form of this sport and therefore catching a wild cutthroat is a triumph.
Like most trout these fish tend to feed on aquatic and terrestrial insects. They are also known to consume smaller fish and smaller aquatic animals (crayfish and such). There is a good population of cutthroat trout that inhabits coastal waters and their diet can be quite diverse because of that.
As mentioned above, there are numerous hatcheries in production and restoration efforts being done to help the cutthroat trout. Due to habitat loss, overfishing and introduction of non-native species that prey on the cutthroat, these fish’s numbers are way down from where they used to be. This has been directly seen and analyzed at one of its most historic ranges, Yellowstone. Before a “catch and release” program was put into place, anglers could harvest dozens of this fish in a day. But towards the end of the 1960’s, wildlife management stepped in and started putting policies into place. All of these efforts and the education of people have been making a positive impact for these fish. That is why when I finally do catch one, I intend to take a picture with it, release him and relive the story over a plate of non-wild trout with my fishing buddies on that trip.
Former Fishy Facts: