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BC Conservation Data Centre: Species Summary

Oncorhynchus clarkii
Cutthroat Trout

Scientific Name: Oncorhynchus clarkii (Richardson, 1836)
English Name: Cutthroat Trout
Classification / Taxonomy
Scientific Name - Concept Reference: Nelson, J. S., E. J. Crossman, H. Espinosa-Perez, L. T. Findley, C. R. Gilbert, R. N. Lea, and J. D. Williams. 2004. Common and scientific names of fishes from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. American Fisheries Society, Special Publication 29, Bethesda, Maryland. 386 pp.
Classification Level: Species
Species Group: Vertebrate Animal
Species Code: F-ONCL
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Craniata Actinopterygii Salmoniformes Salmonidae
Conservation Status / Legal Designation
Global Status: G5 (Dec 2017)
Provincial Status: S4 (Mar 2000)
BC List: No Status
Provincial FRPA list:   
Provincial Wildlife Act:
SARA Schedule:
SARA Comments: ssp. lewisi is SC on SARA schedule 1
General Status Canada: 4 - Secure (2005)
Ecology & Life History
General Description:
Global Reproduction Comments: Inland populations spawn March-early July, depending on location and conditions; coastal populations usually spawn February-May (Moyle 1976, Scott and Crossman 1973). Eggs hatch in 6-8 weeks. Females are sexually mature at 3-4 years, males at 2-3 years (Sigler et al. 1983). Females spawn up to five times during their lifetime. See Stearley (1992) for a discussion of the historical ecology and life history evolution of Pacific salmons and trouts (ONCORHYNCHUS).
Global Ecology Comments: In streams, cutthroats defend feeding territories. Population densities are regulated mostly by stream size and morphology, overwintering habitat, stream productivity, and summer cover for predator avoidance (New Mexico, Sublette et al. 1990).
Migration Characteristics:
(Global / Provincial)
    Local Migrant:
    Distant Migrant:
    Within Borders Migrant:
Y /
N /
Y /
na /
Global Migration Comments: In general, anadromous (sea going) and lake cutthroat trout make extensive spawning migrations; nonmigratory stream- dwelling cutthroats are often quite sedentary (Moyle 1976).

In summer and fall, radio-tagged cutthroat trout in Strawberry Reservoir in Utah had single-month home ranges that were usually about 3-4 km in maximum length (Baldwin et al. 2002).

In the Blackfoot River drainage, Montana, radio-tagged westslope cutthroat trout moved 3-72 km (mean 31 km) to access spawning tributaries (Schmetterling 2001).
(Type / Subtype / Dependence)
Global Habitat Comments: Estuaries or marine waters near the coast, small rivers, gravelly streams, and isolated mountain lakes.

Spawning usually occurs in gravel stream riffles where the female digs a nest (redd) in the gravel.
Food Habits: Invertivore: Adult, Immature
Piscivore: Adult, Immature
Global Food Habits Comments: Opportunistic. Inland cutthroats feed primarily on insects (aquatic and terrestrial); often feeds in and especially downstream from riffle areas; some large individuals feed mostly on fishes; also eats zooplankton and crustaceans. Coastal cutthroats feed in salt water on crustaceans and fishes; in streams, they eat aquatic insects and crustaceans, also frogs, earthworms, fishes, fish eggs, salamanders, etc.
Global Phenology:
Provincial Phenology:
(1st half of month/
2nd half of month)
Colonial Breeder: N
Length(cm)/width(cm)/Weight(g): 99/ /
Elevation (m) (min / max): Global: 
Endemic: N
Global Range Comment: Anadromous forms: Pacific Coast drainages from Eel River, California, north to Prince William Sound, Alaska, generally not more than 160 km inland; non-migrating fish also occur through this range. Allopatric inland forms: Rocky Mountains in Hudson Bay basin, Mississippi River basin, Great Basin (including Lahontan, Bonneville, and Alvord basins), and Pacific basin from southern Alberta south through California to the Rio Grande drainage, New Mexico, and east to Colorado and Montana (Lee et al. 1980, Page and Burr 1991). The greatest abundance of pure interior cutthroat trout occurs in Yellowstone Lake and the Yellowstone River drainage above the falls in Yellowstone National Park (Behnke 1992). Widely stocked in and out of the original range. Established in Laurentian lakes, Quebec. However, rarely has become naturalized much beyond the original distribution (Behnke 1992). Occurrence in high elevation headwater lakes is due primarily to introductions (formerly excluded by falls) (Behnke 1992). Locally common (Page and Burr 1991).
Authors / Contributors
Global Information Author: Hammerson, G.
Last Updated: Mar 11, 2003
Provincial Information Author:
Last Updated:
References and Related Literature
Allendorf, F. W., and R. F. Leary. 1988. Conservation and distribution of genetic variation in a polytypic species, the cutthroat trout. Conservation Biology 2:170-184.
Bartley, D. M., and G. A. E. Gall. 1991. Genetic identification of native cutthroat trout (Oncorhyncuhs clarki) and introgressive hybridization with introduced rainbow trout (O. mykiss) in streams associated with the Alvord Basin, Oregon and Nevada. Copeia 1991:854-859.
Behnke, R. J. 1992. Native trout of western North America. American Fisheries Society Monograph 6. xx + 275 pp.
Behnke, R.J. 1979. Monograph of the native trouts of the genus Salmo of western North America. U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management.
Forbes, S. H., and F. W. Allendorf. 1991a. Mitochondrial genotypes have no detectable effects on meristic traits in cutthroat trout hybrid swarms. Evolution 45:1350-1359.
Forbes, S. H., and F. W. Allendorf. 1991b. Associations between mitochondrial and nuclear genotypes in cutthroat trout hybrid swarms. Evolution 45:1332-1349.
Gresswell, R. E., ed. 1988. Status and management of interior stocks of cutthroat trout. Symposium 4, American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, Maryland. 140 pp.
Gyllensten, U., and A. C. Wilson. 1987. Mitochondrial DNA of salmonids: inter- and intraspecific variability detected with restriction enzymes. Pages 301-317 in N. Ryman and F. Utter, editors. Population genetics and fishery management. University of Washington Press, Seattle.
Langlois, D. L., et al. 1977. Greenback cutthroat trout recovery plan. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Leary, R.F., F.W. Allendorf, S.R. Phelps and K.L. Knudsen. 1987. Genetic divergence and identification of seven cutthroat trout subspecies and rainbow trout. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 116:580-587.
Leary, R.F., F.W. Allendorf, S.R. Phelps, and K.L. Knudsen. 1984. Introgression between west slope cutthroat and rainbow trout in the Clark Fork River drainage, Montana. Proceedings of the Montana Academy of Sciences 43:1-18.
Lee, D. C., and J. Hyman. 1992. The stochastic life-cycle model (SLCM): simulating the population dynamics of anadromous salmonids. United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Paper INT-459, Ogden, Utah. 30 pp.
Lee, D. S., C. R. Gilbert, C. H. Hocutt, R. E. Jenkins, D. E. McAllister, and J. R. Stauffer, Jr. 1980. Atlas of North American freshwater fishes. North Carolina State Museum of Natural History, Raleigh, North Carolina. i-x + 854 pp.
Lorentzen, E.M. 1985. Paiute cutthroat trout recovery plan. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 74 pp.
Miller, R. R., J. D. Williams, and J. E. Williams. 1989. Extinctions of North American fishes during the past century. Fisheries 14(6):22-38.
Morrow, J.E. 1980. The freshwater fishes of Alaska. Alaska Northwest Publishing Company, Anchorage, AK. 248 pp.
Moyle, P. B. 1976a. Inland fishes of California. University of California Press, Berkeley, California. 405 pp.
National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). 5 April 1999. Threatened status for southwestern Washington/Columbia River coastal cutthroat trout in Washington and Oregon, and delisting of Umpqua River cutthroat trout in Oregon. Federal Register 64(64):16397-16414.
National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). 5 July 2002. Withdrawal of proposed rule to list the southwestern Washington/Columbia River distinct population segment of the coastal cutthroat trout as threatened. Federal Register 67(129):44934-44961.
Nehlsen, W., J. E. Williams, and J. A. Lichatowich. 1991. Pacific salmon at the crossroads: stocks at risk from California, Oregon, Idaho, and Washington. Fisheries 16(2):4-21.
Page, L. M., and B. M. Burr. 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes: North America north of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. 432 pp.
Robins, C.R., R.M. Bailey, C.E. Bond, J.R. Brooker, E.A. Lachner, R.N. Lea, and W.B. Scott. 1991. Common and scientific names of fishes from the United States and Canada. American Fisheries Society, Special Publication 20. 183 pp.
Scott, W. B., and E. J. Crossman. 1973. Freshwater fishes of Canada. Fisheries Research Board of Canada, Bulletin 184. 966 pp.
Sigler, W. F., and J. W. Sigler. 1987. Fishes of the Great Basin: a natural history. University of Nevada Press, Reno, Nevada. xvi + 425 pp.
Sigler, W.F., W.T. Helm, P.A. Kucera, S. Vigg and G.W. Workman. 1983. Life history of the Lahonton cuttthroat trout, Salmo clarki henshawi, in Pyramid Lake, Nevada. Great Basin Naturalist 43(1):1-29.
Slaney, T. L., K. D. Hyatt, T. G. Northcote, and R. J. Fielden. 1996. Status of anadromous salmon and trout in British Columbia and Yukon. Fisheries 21(10):20-35.
Smith, G. R., and R. F. Stearley. 1989. The classification and scientific names of rainbow and cutthroat trouts. Fisheries (Bethesda) 14(1):4-10.
Smith, J. J. 1982. Fishes of the Pajaro River system. University of California Publications in Zoology 115:83-170.
Stearley, R. F. 1992. Historical ecology of Salmoninae, with special reference to Oncorhynchus. Pages 622-658 in R.L. Mayden, editor. Systematics, historical ecology, and North American freshwater fishes. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California. xxvi + 969 pp.
Stoltz, J., and J. Schnell (eds.). 1991. Trout: The Wildlife Series. Stackpole Books, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. 384 pp.
Sublette, J. E., M. D Hatch, and M. Sublette. 1990. The fishes of New Mexico. University New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 393 pp.
Trotter, P.C. 1987. Cutthroat: native trout of the west. Colorado Associated University Press, Boulder, Colorado. 219 pp.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 10 June 1998. 90-day finding and commencement of status review for a petition to list the westslope cutthroat trout as threatened. Federal Register 63(111):31691-31693.
Wydoski, R. S., and R. R. Whitney. 1979. Inland fishes of Washington. The University of Washington Press, Seattle. 220 pp.

Please visit the website Conservation Status Ranks for definitions of the data fields used in this summary report.

Suggested Citation:

B.C. Conservation Data Centre. 2003. Species Summary: Oncorhynchus clarkii. B.C. Minist. of Environment. Available: (accessed Oct 31, 2020).