Cutthroat Trout

If you are looking to test your angling skills, then the Cutthroat Trout may just be the fish for you. This Salmonidae, living in freshwater, is found throughout western North America and is considered a good game fish for eating and as well as angling. Although, you may want to think twice before taking a Cutthroat home to cook, as many of the species are endangered because of pollution, competition, and overfishing. 

There is a great deal of variation in the appearance of the Cutthroat Trout in aspects such as color, and size. Indeed, there are around 14 different species of Cutthroat Trout that tend to be local to a specific area. These species include the Bonneville Cutthroat, the Colorado River Cutthroat, the Yellowstone Cutthroat, the Paiute Cutthroat, the Sea-Run Cutthroat, the Snake River Cutthroat, the Alvord Cutthroat, and Montana Cutthroat Trout. 

Then there is the Coastal Cutthroat which lives most of its lifespan along the coast of the Pacific Ocean but returns to rivers for spawning. This is the only one of the Cutthroat species that spends a portion of its life in saltwater. 

The Greenback Cutthroat Trout is another type and one that is considered endangered, as there are only a few left in a tiny creek in Colorado. In Yellowstone national park a type of Cutthroat known as the Yellowstone can be found, and these fish have their own subtype known as the fine spotted Cutthroat. Additionally, in northern Idaho and around the northern tributaries of the Snake River there is one more type to be found – the Westslope Cutthroat. 

However, what tends to stay the same no matter what type you fish are the black spots and the red streaks located under the lower jaw. The latter feature is what gives this fish its distinctive name. Of course, there is no such consistency in the coloration of the body of the Cutthroat Trout as they come in many hues from yellow, to green, and even blue and silver. 

The Cutthroat Trout or, as it is also known, the Oncorhynchus Clarki tends to grow to around 4- 8 pounds but can get even bigger. It tends to spend its time at depths of around 0-200 meters. They tend to have a varied diet too and different species will eat many things from insects to zooplankton, and even other fish. 

Where to Fish for Cutthroat Trout?

Now you know a little more about what a Cutthroat Trout is, you are probably wondering where to find them. Well, as you can see from the information above, particular species can be found in particular locations. 

However, in addition to the general geographical location where Cutthroats can be found, there are also some specific types of geography and formations that these Salmonidae love. Indeed, anywhere that provides them with enough cover to hide from predators, while at the same time staying hidden from their own prey is a good bet. This means stumps and vegetation are a good place to try, especially if they offer shade as well as providing a hiding spot. Then there are rock piles and islands which create pockets of calmer water on the downstream side, perfect for Cutthroats to rest in. Indeed, you will often find them facing upstream on the downstream side of rocks piles or sandy islands which means it’s a good idea to try these sorts of areas first. 

Lastly, another place that Cutthroats love to hang out is where currents merge such as feeder springs and drop-offs. The reason these and other fish like to spend their time here is that the current tends to be slower and this means the types of food they like to eat collect, which draws them to this type of location. 

Cutthroat Trout Fun Facts

  • Cutthroat Trout species derive their name from a red streak across their lower jaw.
  • The state fish of New Mexico is The Rio Grande Cutthroat 
  • Worldwide there are only 14 core Cutthroat Trout populations. 
  • The state fish of Montana is the Westslope Cutthroat Trout
  • Many Cutthroat Trout populations are endangered due to a combination of logging, mining, fragmentation of their habitat
  • The biggest Cutthroat Trout ever caught was  39 in and 41 lb! (world record – is at Lahontan) 

Top Cutthroat Trout Fishing Lures & Tips 

Not regarded as a particularly easy fish to catch, because of the tendency to put up a good fight when hooked, the Cutthroat Trout is one that many anglers are attracted to for the challenge alone. Indeed, if you plan on trying your hand at this fish, it’s best to be well prepared concerning your lures and tackle. With that in mind, the best lures include the following: 


 Available in a range of colors, spoon lures are one of the most popular when angling for Cutthroat Trout. Made from metal to suggest the movement of a baitfish, spoon lures come in a range of types as well including trolling, jigging, topwater, or casting. Each type of spoon has a different action in the water and this means you will want to choose them depending on both the type of water you find yourself in, as well as the season. 


Another type of effective bait when fishing for Cutthroat Trout is insects. In particular, they like crickets, caterpillars, beetles, and grasshoppers. Feel free to catch your own insects, or buy them from a bait shop when you arrive. 

Cured fish roe 

Cured fish roe or fish eggs is possibly the best type of bait for catching Trout such as the Cutthroat. This is because, during spawning season, the fish are likely to ignore all other types apart from this. 

You can make your own cured fish roe by wrapping a skein in cheesecloth and allowing to sure or buy from bait shops. Add weight with a small sinker if you want to go deeper than fishing on the surface when using cured fish roe. 


When it comes to tackle, the Cutthroat Trout has become regarded as one of the best species to target with a fly rod. Of course, there is a great skill to using this type of rod to its full effect and this means that waters muddied from heavy rain are best avoided if it’s Cutthroat Trout you are after. Instead, be sure to be patient and wait until levels begin receding again. 

Although a truly skilled fly fisher may have some luck if they fish slow, to give the trout enough time to see the flies they are casting. 

Can you eat Cutthroat Trout?

Like most freshwater fish Cutthroat Trout have a strong flavor that may not be to everyone’s taste. However, they can make a delicious meal when prepared and cooked in the right way.  

Of course, at this point, it is worth noting that many Cutthroat populations are waning and classed as endangered. This means that catching and eating fish from such populations is irresponsible and should be avoided at all costs. With that in mind, it’s important to check on the status of the Cutthroat Trout in the location before you begin fishing. Some will have higher stocks, though and in this case, eating your catch is OK. 

However, do remember that even if you are releasing your Cutthroats back into the water after you have caught and weighed them, it’s vital that you do all you can to keep them wet, otherwise they won’t survive even when they are returned. 

Proper preparation 

There are two main ways to cook a Cutthroat. The first is to remove the head, and tail and gut the fish and then cook them whole, preferably on the BBQ with plenty of seasoning. Indeed, this is the fastest and easiest way to go about things, especially if your filling skills leave something to be desired. 

Alternatively, filleting the Cutthroat Trout also has its benefits. The first of these is that you can work the seasoning into the flesh which results in a tastier end product. Additionally, by filleting the fish you don’t have to worry about picking around the bones when it comes time to eat it, something that can put a lot of people off eating this beautiful fish. 


 Salt and pepper are a must for any Trout, but there are some other flavors that you can add to enhance your meal too. The first of these is a little garlic powder, and a sprinkle of Italian seasoning or herbs de Provence can work wonders too. Just be sure not to over season your fish as it can overwhelm the taste of the fish. 


 If you aren’t cooking the fish on the BBQ then the oven cooks at around 350 for the best results. Create a pouch of tinfoil for the fish to sit in as this means it will steam in its own juices and be tender and delicious when cooked. Then serve with rice, lemon, and grilled vegetables like onion, and peppers with just a drizzle of olive oil!