Cutthroat Trout are generally and in most habitats, opportunistic feeders. Their diet is made up mostly of aquatic insects when they are young and even as adults in some habitats and with some subspecies. As we will cover below, there are exceptions that vary greatly from distribution and sub-species.

Cutthroat Trout will also eat zooplankton, terrestrial insects and various fish species like minnows, alewife and so on – generally what is referred to as bait fish. Where bait fish are available in large numbers, Cutthroat Trout become piscivorous as adults, which means that they primarily feed on fish.

Westslope Cutthroat Food Preferences

The Westslope Cutthroat Trout food preferences differ considerably between most Cutthroat Trout in that both adults and young cutthroats consume insects, both aquatic and terrestrial as well as crustaceans like crayfish.

Coastal Cutthroat Trout Food Preferences

Unlike the Westslope Cutthroat Trout, the Coastal Cutthroat Trout eats pretty much anything it can find from small fish, insects, worms, leeches, crustaceans and so on.

This has proved to be great for anglers because they were so easy to catch from California all the way up to Alaska. However, this turned out to be a very bad thing for the Coastal Cutthroat Trout as its numbers have crashed to a fraction of what they used to be. Changes in their habitat also contributed to a decrease in their numbers.

cutthroat trout

adult Cutthroats will feed on muddler

Lake-Bound Coastal Cutthroat Trout

Lake-bound Cutthroat Trout are no different in their food preferences than the sea-run cutthroats. Like all lake habitats, spring is the busiest time due to the large number of fish spawning in the shallows as well as the vast number of insects breeding and falling into the water.

Stream Cutthroat Trout Food Preferences

Cutthroat Trout that spend their life in rivers and streams are the polar opposite in food tolerances to the Coastal Cutthroat Trout. Stream living Cutthroat Trout are very selective.

The young Cutthroat Trout will eat larval and fully grown insects like mayflies. It is best to stay on top of which insects are common for the time of year for a given part of the river.

Adult Cutthroat Trout feed on sculpins, fry and minnows. Flies that work on adult Cutthroats include the muddler minnow, rolled muddler and Mickey Finn.

Greenback Cutthroat Trout Food Preferences

Greenback Cutthroat Trout consume terrestrial organisms that include beetles, slugs, grasshoppers and so on. They will feed on the full range of insects that is common to their distribution from moths to mayflies. During the summer, their primary foods include adult hymenoptera and adult diptera.

Invertebrates are common during the spring through to the end of summer when they become less popular.

Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout Food Preferences

Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout’s diet, unlike other subspecies is well suited to its habitats. About 90 percent of their diet is made up of only stoneflies. The remaining ten percent includes mayflies and caddies flies. Fishing with anything else will prove unsuccessful.

Mickey Finn Fly

Mickey Finn

If you’d like to find out more about lures for fishing Cutthroat Trout, click on images below.

Stonefly lure


Muddler minnow

Muddler minnow lure

Crickhopper fishing lure


elk hair caddis fly

ek hair caddis fly