Cutthroat join Steelhead in representing the trout strain to the Pacific salmon population in BC and the Pacific Northwest. There are two variations of Cutthroat: the first is the anadromous coastal Cutthroat (the subject here), while the second is the non-marine (or interior) Cutthroat, which is much more yellow in overall hue than the silvery coastal variety.
Big eaters, Cutthroat enjoy everything from salmon fry, sculpins, stickleback, and even smaller trout. When they have to, they rely on simpler fare like insects and leeches. They can weigh up to 40 lbs. and measure up to 30 inches.
Sportfishers sometimes get confused as to whether they're looking at a Rainbow or Cutthroat trout. Distinguishing features of the Cutthroat include: a blunt head, a large mouth that extends beyond the eye, red-orange slashes just beneath the jawline, heavy spots across the sides and even the belly, and a silvery overall colour. As they move through their migratory cycle, their colours change, and their characteristic slash diminishes, making it easier to confuse them with Rainbow trout. They have lots of sharp little teeth, all the better to catch salmon fry with!
Habits and Habitat
Ocean-run Cutthroat, like Steelhead, can live for many years (up to 10), provided a predator or other challenge doesn't cut things short. They spend up to three or four years in freshwater before swimming for the ocean in the late-spring and early-summer. They tend not to swim out very far in the ocean, sticking close to the shore and to the estuaries they came from. The time they spend in the ocean is unpredictable - from a couple of weeks to half a year. They are considered mature at five to seven years of age.
Like Steelhead, Cutthroat like dark, cool pools and are therefore very sensitive to the state of the riparian zone around their natal stream. Their streams are often close to lakes, but they are highly adaptable and they can also be found in fast-flowing major rivers like the Skeena and Fraser.
Other Facts About Cutthroat:
Cutthroat are very similar to Rainbow trout and do interbreed (the hybrid is called Cutt-bow).
Cutthroat have been overharvested in the past, and can be hard to find.
Cutthroat are a major recreational sport fish beloved of fly-fishers everywhere.
The Cutts homing instincts are legendary; they spawn eerily close to where they were born.