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Cutthroat trout vary widely in size, coloration, and habitats. Though their coloration can range from golden to gray to green on the back, depending on subspecies and habitat, all populations feature distinctive red, pink, or orange marks on the underside of the lower jaw; usually the easiest diagnostic of the species for the casual observer.


Because O. clarkii is such a widespread species it occupies many different habitats. Cutthroat trout habitats range from coastal marine to freshwater rivers and streams with gravel substrates (Behnke, 1992). The diversity in habitat also leads to a diversity in the elevations in which the species can be found. They occur from mountainous streams in the Cascade, Rocky, and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges to the ocean. (Behnke, 1992)


A cutthroat trout's diet changes as they progress through the life stages. As fry they feed on small crustaceans and algae. As they progress into fingerlings they feed on small insects, and crustaceans. Juveniles and adults become opportunistic feeders, eating almost any prey item in their environment (Behnke, 1992). They are known to eat other fishes, crustaceans, and insects (Morrow, 1980).


Cutthroat trout are aggressive feeders and will hit almost any lure, spinner, or fly. Sea-run cutthroat can be taken in fresh water in the spring or during the fall when they enter fresh water to overwinter. Often they are caught when fishing for steelhead trout (Salmo gairdneri). They stay close to the bottom of deep pools or sloughs, and gear must be fished close to the bottom to ensure a hit. During their migrations, they are caught in their home stream estuary or bays and salt chucks in the vicinity. Because sea-run cutthroat smolt are large, they are often confused with mature, catchable fish and some runs have been depleted by overfishing the smolt run. Resident cutthroat can be caught with spinners, or spoons fished deep in pools or along lake shorelines, especially where there is abundant submerged debris. Dry or wet flies fished off inlet streams work well. A muddler minnow on a fast sinking line fished along shores with submerged cover is a sure bet. Large trophy-class cutthroat are best caught by trolling off steep shorelines of landlocked lakes. Coastal cutthroat trout are a handsome and exciting fish to catch. Their appeal is that they can be found in nearly any freshwater habitat.


As adults, different populations and subspecies of cutthroat can range from 6–40 inches (15–100 cm) in length making size an ineffective indicator as to species.


Cutthroat trout, Oncorhynchus clarkii, are widely distributed along the western coast of North America. They can be found as far north as Alaska’s Prince William Sound and as far south as California’s Eel River (Willers, 1991). Their range also extends inland where they can be found on most waterways with linkages to their western range along the Pacific coast (Trotter, 1987).


Wikipedia, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology Animal Diversity Web

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