Whether you’re an avid fisherman, a naturalist or just interested in the wildlife around your hometown, the Greenback Cutthroat Trout is a species worth learning about. This fish is a distinctly North American species with a story to prove it. So even if you don’t see them in your local waterways, it’s worth learning about this interesting fish. Keep reading for a quick introduction that will explain everything you should know about.
The scientific name for a greenback cutthroat trout is oncorhynchus clarki stomias. It’s the eastern subspecies of the larger cutthroat trout family, of which there are 15 different types. These fish can be found in the Western portion of the United States.
However, today, the Greenback Cutthroat Trout is actually considered an endangered species, listed under the Endangered Species Act as “threatened.” Its territory is less than 1% of what it’s historically been.
Since 1984, the Greenback Cutthroat Trout has been the state fish of Colorado.
As the name suggests, the Greenback Cutthroat Trout has a fairly dark green back that is dotted in black throughout. In fact, its spots are the largest of all cutthroat trout. Its underbelly is a bright pink and the throat and lower jaw area are red. When spawning season comes around, its colors intensify in richness and beauty.
The fish generally doesn’t get much bigger than 18 inches and stays below 10 pounds, though it’s not rare to find one that gets close in weight.
The Cutbow, as these fish are called, only began popping up in the last 100 years or so. They are the direct result of stocking the Cutthroat Greenback Trout’s waterway with rainbow trout, so they could be caught and ate later. It didn’t take long for breeding to start and shortly thereafter, the Cutbow could be found throughout these waterways.
These fish are made from female Cutthroat trout and male Rainbow ones. Because of their resulting look, many fishermen confuse the Cutbow for rainbow or Greenback trout. The Cutbow, though, has a silver body and its slash markings or either red or orange. Some have dots, others don’t.
Cutbows spawn in the springtime, preferring temperatures that range between 40 and 50°F. Aside from their natural habitats, many actually breed these fish in hatcheries as well. Unlike just about every other fish in Colorado, the Greenback Trout are practically immune to whirling disease.
Conservation of the Greenback Cutthroat Trout
As recently as 1930, the Greenback Cutthroat Trout was actually considered extinct, which speaks to how badly it was over fished and its habitat destroyed. However, in 1957, a large population of these fish was found in the Big Thompson River located in Rocky Mountain National Park. More populations were later found in 1965 and 1970. That was enough to get the trout listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
Since then, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with the help of Trout Unlimited, have made efforts to save this species, with the result of updating the trout’s status to threatened. Unfortunately, not long ago it was determined that the original stock wasn’t sufficiently studied, so practically the entire reintroduction program was actually focused on the Colorado River cutthroat trout.
However, the Bozeman National Fish Hatchery has been integral in building the numbers of this type of trout.
While fishing of the trout is permitted in the Arkansas River and South Platte, they must be caught and released.
- Greenback Image (top) courtesy of Wikipedia you can find more info on this subject at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenback_cutthroat_trout