Cutthroat Trout Science and Facts

When you hear “Cutthroat,” what pops up in your mind? As it is a popular word, people might expect I am going to offer “State-of-the-art,” “Never Before Seen” tips on something. But weirdly enough, this is a name of a species of Trout. Surprised? You should be!

These are relatives of Salmon and has a wide range of colors starting from green to black. These are known as the “Golden Trout” of Mexico. Also, these fishes are one of the most diverse group that you’ll find on the face of this earth.

Curious to know more? Read this article about “Cutthroat Trout Science and Facts” to discover some astounding aspects about this species.

First Thing’s First – Where Did Our Friend Get Its Name?

For those of you who don’t know, this variety of Trout is a “Game Fish.” This means, people who participate in fishing games like “Fly Fishing” usually go for these migratory dwellers of lakes, oceans, and rivers.

But what about the name? Well, the trout gets its name from a bodily trait that they have. It has a thin “Red Stripe” at the underside of the lower jaw. The stripe is a distinct difference to the other schools of fishes.

Another cool fact is that the species were first discovered by explorer William Clarke. That is why they are also called Clarkii. The expedition is famous by the name of “Lewis and Clarke Expedition.”

Fact Number 2 – Where Can I Get These Fishes?

Well, you can find majority of Cutthroat Trout Habitats in or near America. These fishes (and all their subspecies) mostly inhabit the freshwater sources. I found them in shallow rivers with gravel bottom and in deep lakes too.

An Important fact about these fishes is that they use the cold and moderately deep lakes to reproduce. The reproduction period is during the season of Spring. If you live near the Pacific Basin, the Rocky Mountains, or the Great Basin, your chances of spotting these fishes are higher than ever!

One thing to note is that the lake or river should be well oxygenated if you are looking for them in the water. Without proper oxygen reserves, our little buddies can’t survive for too long.

Fun fact is, some of the Cutthroat Trout Subspecies dwell near the coastal areas as well.

How Many Species of Cutthroat Trout Are There?

To answer the question, “Many.” I can count eight by myself. Plus, you have the Hybrid out there. So, that makes the count 9. Want to know what these species are? Let us go over them briefly.

  • ​Well fish nerds, first one for the count is Lahortan Trout. These are the largest of the lot. You’ll find them to be weighing as much as 40 pounds. Incredible fact: They are quite ancient. They’ve been around since the “Ice Age.” People can find these things near the “Great Basin.” Just have a peek near Lake Tahoe, Pyramid Lake or the Walker Lake.
  • ​The next one for the list is the “Greenback Cutthroat Trout.” Believe it or not, these chaps were on the brink of extinction and were saved entirely accidentally. A gentleman named Joseph C. Jones saved a small portion back in 1873. You can still find a school of these things in a lake in Colorado.
  • ​Have you ever heard of Yellowstone ones? Well, they exist and dwell in Yellowstone National Park. Incredible fun fact is; you have the subspecies of these subspecies known as “Snake River Fine Spotted Cutthroat Trout.”
  • ​Okay, on to number four then. If you live near Utah, Nevada, and Southern Idaho, you might come across Bonneville Trout which are the species of these Cutthroats as well.
  • ​Next on our list is the infamous Rio Grande Cutthroat. This subspecies is found in New Mexico and in just a few parts of the southern side of Colorado. Believe it or not, only 15% of this variant dwells near its original home that is Rio Grande.
  • ​As we move further down, we’ve got Coastal natives of our friends. Remember I told you about Cutthroats being relatives to the Salmons? Well, the Coastal variant resembles closest to Salmon and Steelheads. Normally they live in the Pacific Ocean region. When it comes to the spawning season, they return to the rivers for mating.
  • ​You can find Westslope Cutthroats near the northern Idaho part. If you’ve been to Upper Columbia system, you’ll spot some. And then, there is the “Snake River” in northern part of the country.
  • ​Then we have the native California variant Pauite Cutthroat Trout. The name comes from a tribe of Native Americans that still dwell on that part of the country.
  • Lastly, it is not what we call “Proper Subspecies” of the fishes in question. Rather, it is a hybrid. The main reason for this is the loss of habitat for these fishes. Some fishes are threatened by the existence of man and his erratic behavior on nature. To prevent such things as extinction, several “Inbreeding” (hybridization by spawning of two Trout species) methods are implemented. One such occasion is when a “Rainbow Trout” spawns after mating a Cutthroat to produce Cutbow fishes that are potent as well.

As we discussed the subspecies and the hybridization of these game fishes, let us focus on actual life cycle of these things while we are at it.

The Precisely Scientific Cutthroat Trout Lifecycle

Yes, there is some science to a Trout’s life as well. Right from the moment when a little one is born till it dies, it follows precise timetable regarding when and where it moves to what it does.

For example, this member of the Salmonidae family is a migratory fish. Those of you don’t know what it means, the term “Migratory” means that it moves from river to the ocean when it needs to.

An average fish swims to ocean when it is 2 – 3 years of age. They stay in the ocean for about 2 years before circling back to the rivers. This time they spawn eggs. The male arrives later than the female to fertilize the eggs.

You’ll be astounded to know that each of the female cutthroats can lay anywhere between 200 to 4400 eggs at a time. It lays eggs in a nest that it digs by itself.

The fertilization happens and a one-month period is necessary for the eggs to hatch. Again, a young trout remains in the nest at the bottom of the river for a period of two weeks before it emerges at the top.

Cutthroat Trout Habitat Zone in the Rivers and Oceans

The young fish dwells in the “Shallow” part of the river upstream until it becomes an adult. These riffles need to have what we call “Slow Flowing” water. Pools where you have low velocity water and the side channel of rivers will also do nicely! These pools need to be close in range with forest or wooden debris.

When we come to the “Adults,” these guys reside in large pools. When it comes to the Migratory period of these fishes, they move to tidal sloughs, some move to marshes, and others toward swamps as well. These are great areas to be used as feeding grounds.

Which are the Imminent Threats to Cutthroat Trout Fishes?

Did I mention that a variant of these fishes was saved from extinction once? Well, believe it or not, this is one member of the Salmonidae family that is constantly under threat of extinction ever since. Part of the blame goes to other trout species that contest with this one over various resources. The other part of the blame goes to us, the humans. Let us look at some of the treats it faces very briefly.

Threats from Other Schools of Trout Fishes

Species like Lake Trout, Brown Trout, and even the Brook Trout are alien to our friends. These species were first brought to America and Neighboring Mexico by man himself. These “Foreign” fishes are contributing to the demise and diminishing of our friends in the following ways:

  • ​These “Foreign” Trout fishes compete with Cutthroat regarding a place in their habitats to spawn eggs and breed new members.
  • ​Bluntly speaking, food sources are a matter of competition as well.
  • ​Other trout species sometimes feed on our friends for their own survival.
  • ​People are doing “Inbreeding” a lot lately. Crossing genes with Rainbow Trout in a way is diluting the original traits of our friends in the name of fertility and “Newer Species.”

Threats from Us, The Humans

When it comes to putting an animal to risk and I mean “Any Animal” (Trout included). Let’s just see what kind of dangers we are putting these creatures in.

  • ​The woodworkers do a fascinating job turning trees into logs that we can use. BUT, too much of “Tree Chopping” means riverside forests are disappearing. As a bonus, we are indirectly contributing to rising temperature of those areas and in turn, reducing the areas where our friends can lay eggs.
  • ​You might not know but people who work in mining areas, are fed with these fishes more often than not.
  • ​The next cause of near extinction of these small fishes is “Pollution.” Do I need to say anything else?
  • ​We human beings are adapting to the environment as we are growing in population. Such adaptations are not always pleasant for the animals around us. For example, we go to great lengths to establish new colonies and irrigation plants to support them. We raise livestock and crops too. Water is a “Key” element in these endeavors. To make sure we have enough water, we divert sufficient amount from oceans and rivers (mostly rivers). Well, the diversion doesn’t bode too well with the health of our trout friends.

It is not like we are all bad! Some efforts are being made to make sure the species survives a major catastrophe in the future. What are those? That brings up my next point

Measures to Prevent a Large-Scale Extinction

From time and time again, we humans took decisive steps when it came to saving our friends from going extinct. In the earlier part of the 2000s (2006 to be exact), an effort was made to ensure Greenbacks don’t go extinct. The authorities closed off Colorado Parks and Wildlife. There was a ban in place for camping trips and starting fire.

In 2008, authorities stepped in again to move 10% of the total Greenbacks to state hatchery. That ensured some degree of protection and reproduction for the Greenbacks in case any disaster hits Bear Creek.

We move to 2014 when the state hatchery released some of the Greenbacks in the lake south of Fort Collins. These fishes are ready for spawning now. Authorities reported that these are “Genetically Pure” Greenback Trout fishes. Thanks to their efforts, the lake once declared fishless; has become abundant with Greenbacks.

Final Words Before I Finish Up

It has been a rather long article, hasn’t it? Well, in my defense, these are astonishing social and scientific facts on Cutthroat Trout fishes that I conjured up today. Thanks to this “Mini Wikipedia” page on these fishes, now you know a little bit more about them than you did before. You are welcome to thank me in the comments below. If I’ve missed a thing or two facts or scientific information that deserve to be on the list, mention it right away and I’ll edit this article.

Williams