Cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus)
The physical appearance of the cutthroat trout varies in both size and color, depending on where each subspecies is found. One dominant feature, wherever a cutthroat is found, is the reddish orange splotch on each side of the lower jaw, although it will vary from yellow to orange to red. Another distinct feature is the abundance of solid black spots along the body, which are most prominent on the dorsal fin and caudal fin (tail). However, the number of black spots will also vary. Black spots on some cutthroats will cover the entire body or just the rear portion of others.
Actual body color of any inland specimen will range from olive green to yellowish green, though sea-run (anadromous) cutthroat display shades of silver and blue. There may be shades of red on each side of the head, front portion of the body, and along the belly. Some cutthroats display a narrow pink stream, similar to a Rainbow trout, running at various lengths along the side of the body.
The fins and tail both feature soft rays, and the tail is only slightly forked. Perhaps the only way to distinguish a cutthroat from Rainbows and the numerous other trout is the obvious presence of hyoid teeth found at the back of the tongue, which may not be found or are less obvious in other trout.
Inland cutthroats mostly consume a variety of aquatic and terrestrial insects, crustaceans and small fish, whichever is prevalent and available in a given stream, river, lake or pond. They will often hide in available cover like sunken logs, lily pads or coarse rubble and ambush insects and baitfish before swimming back to the security of cover. This is especially true when rainbow or brown trout push cutthroats away from feeding grounds along current edges.
Coastal cutthroats at sea, as well as their larger landlocked subspecies, tend to be cruisers instead of ambush feeders. They readily consume various small fish, shrimp, sandworms, and squid. However, the feeding style and diet of young coastal cutthroats in freshwater tributaries is similar to their inland counterparts.
The broad native range of cutthroat trout spans the Pacific Coast from central Alaska south to northern California, as well as most inland rivers and streams draining into the Pacific Ocean. Anadromous cutthroat usually do not migrate more than 100 miles inland, but widespread introduction has extended the landlocked cutthroat range to include inland lakes, rivers, streams and ponds throughout the Pacific Northwest, as far east as Saskatchewan and as far south as Arizona and New Mexico. There have even been some cutthroat trout introduced into a small number of waters in eastern North America.
Despite the wide range of the cutthroat trout, many of its subspecies are unique to the rivers or drainages where they are found. Many face competition for food and habitat from introduced trout species, resulting in diminished populations.
Cutthroat trout can inhabit a number of different coldwater environments, from near-shore salt water to freshwater tributaries, inland lakes, rivers, streams and bog ponds.
Coastal (sea-run, anadromous) cutthroat inhabit areas relatively close to shore prior to the spawning migration, during which they are found in the stream, rivers and lakes (if accessible) where they were born. Inland cutthroats are found in large lakes and rivers, mountain streams and ponds, and some headwater tributaries, where they may coexist with resident coastal cutthroat. Inland cutthroats are more vulnerable to stream warming, siltation, pollution and other forms of habitat alteration than other trout species.
� Cutthroat trout will readily hybridize with rainbow trout in waters where both species exist. The cross is also produced in some hatcheries, resulting in the stocking of “cutbows” in selected waters.
� The largest cutthroat ever caught and recorded weighed 41 pounds, however, that particular subspecies was classified as extinct in 1945.