Yellowstone cutthroat originally ranged upstream of Shoshone Falls on the Snake River and its tributaries west of the Continental Divide. East of the Continental Divide they called Yellowstone Lake, the Yellowstone River and its tributaries downstream to the Tongue River home. Today pure populations are limited to some headwaters streams and Yellowstone National Park. These cutthroats’ habitat is relatively clear, cold streams, rivers, and lakes. Preferred temperatures are less than 60 degrees, but can tolerate temperatures approaching 80 degrees for short periods.
Large black spots concentrated just before the tail is a distinguishing feature of this golden colored cutthroat. As with other cutthroats, the red slashes on the lower jaw, distinguish them from their related cousin, rainbow trout. Yellowstone’s tend to be a muted brownish to yellowish color (even silvery in some specimens); rarely sporting the brighter colors seen in the Colorado River Cutthroat. This species has been documented to live over 10 years. One of the larger cutthroat, it can exceed 24 inches in length and historical records suggest larger fish.
Yellowstone cutthroat trout spawn exclusively in flowing water. Lake populations require access to inlet or outlet streams for self-sustaining populations. Spawning takes place in the spring and early summer once spring runoff abates. They select shallow gravelly areas with good current to spawn.
Like other cutthroats, Yellowstone cutthroat feed primarily on aquatic and terrestrial insects, but are more prone to eat fish than other cutthroat species.
Yellowstone Cutthroat in Wyoming
- Yellowish brown, silvery or brassy bronze, becoming paler toward the belly
- Spots are medium in size, conspicuous, rounded and often concentrated towards caudal fin
- Red or orange slash under lower jaw
- Crimson blush on gill plate
- Distinguished from rainbow trout by the lack of white borders on its paired fins
- Distinguished from other cutthroats by its large black spots concentrated toward the caudal fin and its drab colors
In Wyoming, the Yellowstone cutthroat trout is native to the Yellowstone River drainage downstream to the Tongue River, including the Wind, Big Horn and Clark’s Fork river drainages in Wyoming. It is the most widely recognized subspecies of the cutthroat trout.
Yellowstones prefer clear, cool streams and rivers, but are also found in ponds and lakes. Food is primarily aquatic insects and terrestrial invertebrates.