New Heathens
15Aug/11Off

Yellowstone Cutt-Slam?

Notice: trout porn alert. The state of Wyoming puts on a cool thing that I want to do someday called the "Cutt-slam." In it anglers are challenged to catch each species of cutthroat trout native to the state. I've tried to do the same thing with the three (?) species of cutthroats native to Yellowstone.

First, the most abundant (though far less so than it was just 20 years ago), the namesake, the Yellowstone cutthroat trout. Here's a pretty one from Tower Creek near its confluence with the Yellowstone River.

Most all the Westslope cutthroat trout native to Yellowstone Park were wiped out by the 1930s by the introduction of non-native fish. But miraculously, a few survived in a tiny, unnamed stream discovered just a few years ago. From them the park created a Westslope reservoir in High Lake. I made the 20-mile hike just to catch a pure Westslope in Yellowstone.

The third type of cutthroat found in Yellowstone is tricky. It's the Snake River Fine-Spotted Cutthroat and, as its name attests, it lives in the Snake River drainage and is distinguished by its tiny speckles; like ground pepper rather than peppercorns. Despite their obvious visual differences, biologically the Snake River Fine-Spotted cutthroat is considered to be just a form of Yellowstone cutthroat, not its own separate species or subspecies. Grand Teton National Park has plenty of finespotted cutts, but Yellowstone has just a few in its portion of the Snake River which flows near the southern part of the park. In that section of the Snake, the finespotteds overlap with regular Yellowstone cutts. I caught this beautiful specimen a couple days ago in the Snake near the southern border of Yellowstone and at first I thought its spots were fine enough to complete my Yellowstone cutt-slam. Now I'm not so sure. What do you think? Finespotted? Or regular Yellowstone? (Compare it to a bona-fide finespotted that I caught in the Tetons last September.)

(You might think, after reading this and other missives, that I'm obsessed with native cutthroat trout. You're wrong. Really, I'm obsessed with being where native cutthroats live. Which is to say, the Rocky Mountains).

Enough trout? Here is this post's gratuitous grizzly shot, snapped yesterday morning in Round Prairie along Soda Butte Creek. Why more griz shots? Because there's nothing un-awesome about seeing a wild grizzly bear (safely). I have seen eight in the past 12 days.

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  1. I think your SRCT is a YCT, but who knows. It’s tricky, since there’s nothing geographically to distinguish their ranges.

    For instance, a couple of weeks ago I caught this guy in a stream in which every other fish that I caught was a SRCT:

    http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6190/6035621903_b790ef2f65_b.jpg

    That fish made the second YCT that I’ve ever caught out of this stream (compared to who-knows-how many SRCTs), and the farthest downstream that I’ve ever caught one.

    According to Dr. Behnke, the headwaters of this stream are supposed to contain YCT, but downstream it clearly contains SRCTs.

    http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6135/6036195218_de4e16efe8_b.jpg

  2. Likewise, this fish, who appears to be a Snake-Rive Cutthroat, was caught out of a stream in the Yellowstone River drainage, though very near the continental divide and therefore close to the Snake River Drainage.

    http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6195/6036229336_532ec9f525_b.jpg

    Obviously, you never know what’s been stocked where, but if this fish is native to this stream, then you’ve got an example of a SRCT in what should be YCT range and YCT in what should be the SRCT’s range.


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