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Yellowstone and Westslope Cutthroat Trout


Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout.

Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout

Westslope Cutthroat Trout.

Westslope Cutthroat Trout

Montana's State Fish- treasured for their sport, beauty, and standing as hearty native fish.

Like a family heirloom passed from generation to generation, Montana's native cutthroat trout are among the treasures that make Montana such a special place. Montana's native fish are Nature's Keepers and it's up to all of us to keep it that way.

General Overview

June 13, 1805— While camped with the Corps of Discover along the Missouri River near Great Falls, Capt. Meriwether Lewis Dubbed our westslope cutthroat "a very fine trout."

What we've learned

  • New, introduced fish compete more successfully for food and habitat in changed river environments.
  • Brown trout and brook trout are more aggressive, squeezing out native cutthroat from their preferred habitats.
  • Rainbow trout outcompete native cutthroat and breed with them to create a hybrid fish.

Now, almost 200 years later, both of Montana's very fine cutthroat trout still exist here and are beginning to win some battles in their long upstream fight for survival.

Most of our best-known trout- rainbow trout, brown trout, brook trout and golden trout- are not native to Montana, but were introduced by newcomers as sport fish.

Montana's native fish adapted to a life in mountain and prairie streams over thousands of years- enduring wild spring floods, summer droughts, and long, cold winters.

As new settlers changed Montana's landscape, the cycle of life changed for Montana's native cutthroat trout as well. The eventual introductions of non-native fish added to the rapid decline and gradual isolation of our native cutthroat trout populations

Conservation and Restoration Plans

Aimed at sustaining and expanding native cutthroat trout and their habitat with goals to:
  • Restore Montana's native cutthroat trout to levels that will support angling and harvest.
  • Protect genetically pure westslope and Yellowstone cutthroat trout populations.
  • Protect some hybrid populations while determining the role these populations may play in westslope and Yellowstone cutthroat trout restoration.
  • Ensure the long-term survival of westslope and Yellowstone cutthroat trout within their Montana native ranges.
  • Monitor the progress of restoration work and the presence, distribution, and abundance of Montana's native cutthroat populations.

Historic and Current Distribution Map