Cutthroat Trout Habitat
Inland Cutthroat Trout and resident coastal Cutthroat Trout live in a wide variety of cold water habitats from small headwater tributaries, mountain streams to bog ponds, large lakes and rivers.
Providing in depth habitat analysis for each Cutthroat Trout is unwarranted as there is a lot of overlap and that level of detail is best left to research papers. We will point out noticable differences where warranted.
River and Stream Habitat
River and stream habitat is by far the most common habitat for all cutthroat trout subspecies. Streams and rivers are characterized by clear running water that is often mountain fed with high visibility, is well oxygenated and moving from a slow running to moderately fast. This is the same habitat preferred by most salmon.
When in a fast moving river, they are found in pools and riffles out of the main flow of the current and often deep in the pool.
Usually these pools and riffles are located near sunken debris, which causes the pools to form as the current rushes around the debris taking away the substrate. Without this debris, silt builds up and the water becomes murky over time, which the Cutthroat do not like.
As such, rivers that have a significant human presence have far fewer populations.
In fact, human alterations of the river habitat is the single most significant factor in the extinction of fish species like the Cutthroat Trout. To date, two Cutthroat Trout species are extinct with three others threatened and on the verge of extinction.
The river beds are often rocky in nature. The headwaters are usually characterized by small rounded rocks between a few centimetres to several inches long. Further downstream, rocks are often much larger, though this is not always the case.
The terrain is a large factor. Where there is a large elevation change, the river is often fast flowing and contains much larger rocks and boulders.
Spawning Cutthroat Trout Habitat
All Cutthroat Trout spawn in rivers, including sea run cutthroat trout. When spawning, sea-run cutthroat are usually found in river or stream systems with accessible lakes and in saltwater near shore and their natal tributaries. In some areas, both freshwater and saltwater fish occur together.