Post date: Monday, March 5, 2012 - 23:20
Updated date: 2/6/17
Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout Closeup Photo Onchorynchus clarkii


The cutthroat Trout is a salmonid closely related to the rainbow trout. More than ten distinct sub-species of this fish exist, and many of these are threatened or endangered due to habitat loss, dams, and hybridization with rainbow trout and golden trout. Cutthroat trout vary widely in size, coloration, and habitat selection.





The coloration of cutthroat trout is highly variable, especially between subspecies, but it is always characterized by two very distinctive features:  black spotting on the sides, and the brilliant red slash-marks on the throat that give this fish its colorful name. Stream forms typically reach a few pounds in weight, but lake-dwelling subspecies (like the Lahontan Cutthroat) have been known to reach 40 pounds in weight and more than 30 inches long. Migratory or "Coastal" cutthroats often have a chrome appearance, especially when caught soon after migrating from the saltwater.





The cutthroat is a fish of the West, living primarily in the Rocky Mountains and on the West Coast of North America.  The cutthroat origated in the rivers of the west coast, but naturally spread across the continental divide millions of years ago.  It is a fish of remote mountain streams, high elevation lakes, and cold, clear waters.  Cutthroat Trout live in some of the most beautiful landscapes of the American West.





Cutthroats are fairly typically members of the trout tribe, making their living in flowing waters and feeding heavily on insects. Grasshoppers, earthworms, and fish eggs are good natural baits to try when targeting cutthroat trout. When many insects are on the water, cutthroats will rise readily and are easy to catch on dry flies. The sunken fly, in the form of a wet fly or nymph, is deadly in almost all circumstances. In remote mountain streams, they will grab just about anything that falls into the water. In most areas, they primarily feed on aquatic insects. Large cutthroats become very piscivorous, and can be attracted with spoons, inline spinners, and streamer flies. Other foods attractive to cutthroat trout are scuds, fairy shrimp, terrestrial insects, sculpins, and leeches. Both fly and spinning tackle is appropriate for cutts; in general a 4-5 weight flyrod or a light spinning rod with 4-6 pound test should be used.



Recognized Subspecies of Cutthroat Trout

  • Yellowstone Cutthroat (Oncorhynchus clarki bouvieri)  Common. Found in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.
  • Westslope Cutthroat (Oncorhynchus clarki lewisiCommon, Idaho, Montana, British Columbia, Alberta.
  • Coastal Cutthroat (Oncorhynchus clarki clarki) Common.  "Sea-Run" Cutthroat; found in coastal areas from California to Alaska.
  • Snake River Finespotted Cutthroat (Oncorhynchus clarki behnkeiUncommon, Idaho and Wyoming.
  • Colorado River Cutthroat (Oncorhynchus clarki pleuriticusUncommon.  Colorado, Utah, Wyoming.
  • Bonneville Cutthroat (Oncorhynchus clarki utahRare. Mainly found in Utah.
  • Rio Grande Cutthroat (Oncorhynchus clarki virginalis)  Rare.  Colorado and New Mexico.
  • Lahontan Cutthroat (Oncorhynchus clarki henshawiVery rare; threatenedLarge lake-dwelling subspecies. Nevada.
  • Greenback Cutthroat (Oncorhynchus clarki stomiasVery Rare; Threatened. Colorado.
  • Paiute Cutthroat (Oncorhynchus clarki selenirisVery rare; threatened.  California.
  • Yellowfin Cutthroat (Oncorhynchus clarki macdonaldiExtinct, formerly of Colorado.
  • Alvord Cutthroat (Oncorhynchus clarki alvordensis) Extinct. Formerly of Oregon.



Range Map

Photo Credits:

Corey Geving, Eli

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