Yellowstone cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus)
The Yellowstone cutthroat trout’s primary coloration is yellowish green. Mature fish have red or pink on the gill cover, down the side of the body, and on the lower belly. Yellowstone cutthroat trout have medium to large black spots on the back and sides. River-dwelling Yellowstone cutthroat trout have spots concentrated near the back half of the fish, while fish in Yellowstone Lake have spots more evenly distributed. The elongated body is nearly five times as long as it is deep. They have small heads with a somewhat pointed to rounded snout and a rather large mouth that has teeth at the base of the tongue.
Young Yellowstone cutthroat trout feed almost entirely on plankton, while adults eat the abundant midge larvae, shrimp, and insects blown into the lake from the surrounding forest and scrub. When smaller fish are available in the environment Yellowstone cutthroat trout eat them almost exclusively.
Yellowstone cutthroat trout inhabit approximately 4,700 miles of steams in Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho, in addition to Yellowstone Lake and Yellowstone River in Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone cutthroat trout have also been stocked into many other bodies of water, but due to environmental factors and cross breeding, a strain of trout unique from the Yellowstone cutthroat trout has emerged.
Yellowstone cutthroat trout occupy high-mountain lakes with cold, clear water and small gravel-bottom mountain streams of similar water quality. While in lake environments, the cutthroat tend to inhabit more of the shallow waters than many other types of lake-dwelling trout.
� In the late 1800s and early 1900s, anglers at Yellowstone National Park used to intentionally fish for the Yellowstone cutthroat trout near one of the park’s hot springs. After pulling a fish from the water, the angler would drop the still hooked fish into the hot spring. Minutes later he would pull the fish out cooked and ready for eating. This practice was outlawed in 1912.
� The survival of Yellowstone cutthroat trout is in jeopardy because of the illegal stocking of Yellowstone Lake with lake trout for the past two decades. Lake trout have decimated native stocks of Yellowstone cutthroat trout wherever they have been introduced.