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Cutthroat Trout

Updated on February 3, 2015

The Cutthroat Trout Family

Cutthroat trout are native to western North America. The common name "cutthroat" refers to the distinctive coloration on the underside of the lower jaw.

Cutthroat trout are among the most diverse trout, with the broadest historical range of North American stream welling trout.

Several sub-species inhabit North America.

Cutthroat Trout Information

Cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii) are among the most diverse trout species, with the broadest historical range of North American stream welling trout.

Cutthroat trout are found in fresh, brackish or saltwater in North America mostly west of the Rocky Mountains. Some populations inhabit small streams all their lives, while others live in large rivers and spawn in small streams or dwell in lakes and spawn in streams.

A few coastal populations are anadromous, living primarily in the Pacific Ocean as adults and returning to fresh water to spawn. The ranges of the coastal and Yellowstone varieties are separated by a central area, which is occupied by rainbow trout. Inland forms of cutthroat trout also exist in western Alberta in headwaters of rivers.

Depending on subspecies and habitat, the coloration of cutthroat trout can be golden, gray or greenish on the back. All populations have distinctive red, pink, or orange marks on the underside of the lower jaw, which helps in identification.

Cutthroat trout have a short, conical head with a somewhat rounded snout. They have a large mouth with well developed teeth on both jaws. Anadromous breeding males develop a slight hooking of the mouth and elongated lower jaw.

The coastal cutthroat trout is colored dark to olive-green with numerous black spots and may appear more blue with silvery sides. The interior cutthroat trout has a pattern of yellow-green with red on the sides of the head and front of the body and the belly.

Size can vary widely among different populations and subspecies of cutthroat, with adults ranging from 6-40 inches in length, and weights ranging from less than 1 to over 15 pounds.

In many areas, populations of cutthroat are threatened by non-native species of fish, habitat loss and other environmental issues.

Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout

Yellowstone cutthroat can weigh up to 15 pounds. They are generally larger than westslope cutthroat and more likely to include fish in their diet.

Cutthroat Trout History

The scientific name for the cutthroat trout, Oncorhynchus clarkii, honors Captain William Clark, who described cutthroat trout of the Columbia River. Clark's expedition partner, Meriwether Lewis encountered cutthroats near on the Missouri river. Lewis was recognized with the scientific name for the Westslope trout, Oncorhynchus clarkii lewisi.

Cutthroat Trout Subspecies

There are several subspecies of cutthroat trout, each native to a separate geographic area. This list includes some of the better known subspecies of cutthroat trout:

Coastal cutthroat trout (O. c. clarki)

This trout is also called as "sea-run" cutthroat. Its native range includes northern California to Alaska.

Alvord cutthroat trout (O. c. alvordensis)

This fish was found in tributaries of Alvord Lake (southeastern Oregon). It is said to be extinct.

Bonneville cutthroat trout (O. c. utah)

This fish is native to tributaries of the Great Salt Lake.

Humboldt cutthroat trout (O. c. spp.)

This strain of cutthroat is only in the upper Humboldt River of northern Nevada.

Lahontan cutthroat trout (O. c. henshawi)

This trout has been designated as threatened in some areas. The Lahontan Cutthroat Trout (O. clarki henshawi) is the official state fish of Nevada.

Paiute cutthroat trout (O. c. seleniris)

This trout is native to the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains

Snake River fine-spotted cutthroat trout (O. c. behnkei)

This cutthroat is native to the Snake River of Idaho and Wyoming. Some sources consider it a population of O. c. bouvieri.

Westslope cutthroat trout (O. c. lewisi)

This fish is native to northern Idaho, Montana, British Columbia, and Alberta.

Yellowfin cutthroat trout (O. c. macdonaldi)

This species is said to be extinct.

Yellowstone cutthroat trout (O. c. bouvieri)

This trout is native to the upper Snake River, Yellowstone Lake, and Yellowstone River, Idaho and Wyoming.

Colorado River cutthroat trout (O. c. pleuriticus)

Colorado River cutthroat trout are native to Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. Today, they inhabit less than 15 percent of their original range. Colorado River cutthroat trout are currently designated as species of special concern.

Greenback cutthroat trout (O. c. stomias)

This trout is native to the Arkansas and South Platte Rivers in eastern Colorado. The Greenback cutthroat trout has been designated as threatened.

Rio Grande cutthroat trout (O. c. virginalis)

This strain is native to New Mexico and southern Colorado.

fly fishing
fly fishing

Cutthroat Trout - State Fish

The cutthroat trout is the state fish of Idaho and Wyoming. Subspecies of cutthroat are the state fish of Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah.

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