Cutthroat Trout are found living in freshwater as well as being sea-run. The sea going Cutthroat Trout spend most of their lives in the ocean with the exception of when they are born and when they return to spawn.

Sea-Run Cutthroat Trout Spawning

Sea-run Cutthroat Trout enter rivers and streams along the west coast of the United States and Canada start heading up stream to the headwaters of their birth river anywhere from August to November even though they do not spawn until December at the earliest and may spawn as late as May. The water must be cool and clear and moderately flowing for spawning to be successful.

Cutthroat Trout spawn multiple times and unlike Pacific Salmon, they do not die after spawning. They return back to the ocean but do not travel nearly as far as salmon, which may travel thousands of miles into the north Pacific Ocean. Instead, they spend their ocean time in estuaries and will not venture too far away from these rivers.

Preparing the Redd

The female Cutthroat Trout is responsible for selecting a nesting location in the river headwater. She scope away the rocks and peddles using violent thrusts of her tail. One the nest is ready, she will deposit her eggs with a waiting male ready to fertilize the eggs.

Alevins Cutthroat Trout

Once the eggs have hatched, which can take anywhere from six to seven weeks, the young cutthroat, named alevins, stay close to the net until the yolk sac has disappeared. After three weeks, the alevins move away from the nest in search of food and are now called fry. The fry will spend several years growing before they head to the ocean. Once they head to the ocean, they are now called smolts.

They spend a lot of their time in the surf close to rocks, kelp beds and other under water obstructions that provide cover. Like other predatory fish, they wait concealed before striking out against prey as it swims by.

After only a year, most Cutthroat Trout are ready to return to their birth river to spawn. While most return after only spending a year in the ocean others take as long as two years.

LandLocked Cutthroat Trout Spawning

For those Cutthroat Trout living in freshwater all year around, they have the same needs as sea-run Cutthroat Trout. They require access to rivers and streams that have flowing water that is clear and cool.

The water must be in the range of 43°F to 63°F/6°C to 17°C. Incubation requires water temperature of between 50°F to 52°F/10°C to 11°C.

Cuthtroat Trout can be found spawning in gravel ranging in size from 6 mm all the way up to 10cm. Tolerance for suspended sediment, also known as a measure of turbidity, is low. Excess of 100 ppm can lead to a failure of spawning especially if the water temperature is outside of their preferred range.

Catching Cutthroat with Flies

Fly Fishing is an excellent way to catch Cutthroat trout. Some will argue that it is the only way to catch them while they are located in rivers and streams and we tend to agree.

Cutthroat Trout will eat just about anything that resembles insects that fall into and live in the streams where Cutthroat Trout live ad spawn. For the spring, dry files are most effective.

The best tip for selecting a fly is to pick whatever is popular for that given time of day and season. Cutthroat Trout are not overly picky but do have preferences. If one fly is not working, try a different fly so having a variety of flies handy will improve your chances. If unsuccessful after about 15 minutes with one fly, try another before moving to a different location. Streamer patterns work well with Cutthroat Trout including the very popular Wooly Bugger as well as leech type patterns tied with breathable materials.

Catch and Release

Please practice catch and release with Cutthroat Trout. Some sub-species are threatened and need to be preserved.