Fun Cutthroat Trout Facts For Kids

Christian Mba
Oct 20, 2022 By Christian Mba
Originally Published on Aug 19, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Fact-checked by Sonali Rawat
Cutthroat trout facts like the species spawn in spring are interesting.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 9.5 Min

Fishing is a widely loved hobby. The cutthroat trout, Oncorhynchus clarkii, is a very popular game fish among people who enjoy fly fishing. The cutthroat trouts are native to North America and are widely distributed along the western coasts and rivers. There are many subspecies of cutthroat trouts across various areas. These Salmonides are famous for their migration during the spawning season.

The cutthroat trouts' population face major threats from overfishing, over-harvesting, non-native species, and climate change. They love cold, temperate waters, they are capable of living in warm temperatures but do not thrive in them. Cutthroat trouts can adapt to various habitats like marine, estuaries, and freshwater habitats like rivers and lakes. They have a strong taste and many people enjoy eating them. Humans, bull trouts, American black bears, grizzly bears, river otters, and mink are the major predators of cutthroat trouts. Read on to find out more!

You may also check out the fact files on lake trout and mahi-mahi from Kidadl.

Cutthroat Trout Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a cutthroat trout?

The native cutthroat trout, Oncorhynchus clarkii, is a Pacific trout fish belonging to the family Salmonidae. There are 14 species of trout cutthroat distributed across various geographical regions. They are bony fish (teleost). The common subspecies of cutthroat trout are: Rio grande cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki virginalis), Sea run cutthroat trout or coastal cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii clarkii), Colorado River cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki pleuriticus), Snake river cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii behnkei), Bonneville cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii utah), Yellowfin cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii macdonaldi), Greenback cutthroat trout, and Lahontan cutthroat trout.

What class of animal does a cutthroat trout belong to?

The cutthroat trout belong to the class Actinopterygii, ray-finned fishes. They are taxonomically classified as kingdom Animalia, phylum Chordata, class Actinopterygii, order Salmoniformes, family Salmonidae, genus Oncorhynchus, and species Clarkii.

How many cutthroat trouts are there in the world?

The exact populations of cutthroat trouts are unknown. There are 14 species of cutthroat trout Oncorhynchus clarkii in the wild. Some major subspecies are westlope cutthroat trout or black-spotted cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii lewisi), Lahontan cutthroat trout, sea run cutthroat trout, Yellowstone cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii bouvierii), and the greenback cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii stomias). Coastal cutthroat trout populations are found in rivers, streams, lakes native to North America. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, they are not listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Where does a cutthroat trout live?

Cutthroat trouts are endemic to North America. The population of cutthroat trout species is distributed across the temperate waters of western coasts in the North America river basin. They can be found from Alaska to Eel river, California. The cutthroat trouts migrate inland through waterways that connect to the Pacific coast. Each group of trouts found in various geographically isolated locations is considered a subspecies. They are found in regions like British Columbia, Great Basin, and Alberta. They have a wide range of distribution. The U.S. Fisheries and wildlife service and National park service introduced some native trout subspecies of cutthroat trout fish to various lakes in Yellowstone National Park, Lake Michigan, and lakes in White Mountains, Arizona.

What is a cutthroat trout's habitat?

During summer, adult coastal cutthroat trout live in marine environments to feed and return to freshwater from fall to feed on insects and spawn in spring. Cutthroat trout is a widespread species and it occupies various habitats. Cutthroat trout habitats range from coastal marine to brackish water to river basins and streams. They also live in different elevations. Coastal cutthroat trout populations are found in rivers, streams, lakes native to North America.  

Who do cutthroat trouts live with?

Cutthroat trouts fish and wildlife are solitary feeders. They migrate in small groups. The bigger adult fish swim alone. Cutthroat trout are sedentary fish. They don't move or interact with others with the exception of hunting and mating. They propel through the water moving only half of their bodies. Coastal cutthroat trout populations are found in rivers, streams, lakes native to North America.

How long does a cutthroat trout live?

The lifespan of a cutthroat trout fish and wildlife varies from six to eight years of age after attaining maturity. The oldest documented fish in Yellowstone National Park was 16 years old.

How do they reproduce?

The cutthroat trout species attain sexual maturity at the age of six years. The coastal cutthroat trout species migrate to the freshwater stream spawning habitat during spawning season, February to June. Similarly, cutthroat species that inhabit large rivers migrate to small shallow lakes or streams to start spawning. They are capable of spawning multiple times during the spawning season. Interbreeding is very common in this species of fish.

Oncorhynchus clarkii, coastal cutthroat trouts are salmonids that spawn in streams. The females dig and nest in the gravelly bottom of the stream. Courtship behavior is displayed by male trouts. They nudge the female with their nose and shake. This prompts the female trout to lay eggs in her nest and the male deposits sperm over the laid eggs. They cover and defend their nest for a short duration and then leave. They lay over a thousand eggs in a single spawn. Only fertilized eggs hatch after two months of gestation. This species does not exhibit any parental caring to the offspring.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status for cutthroat trout species is Not Listed in the IUCN Red List For Threatened Species. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, they are not listed under the Endangered Species Act. Some subspecies populations are threatened in their habitat. Their population is being kept alive due to the fact that people enjoy eating them.

Cutthroat Trout Fun Facts

What do cutthroat trouts look like?

The different subspecies of cutthroat trouts have a wide range of sizes and colors for cutthroat trout identification. The most common colors being golden, silvery yellow, grayish brown, brownish red, and green. They have reddish-pink or orange markings on the underside of lower mandibles and gill plates. This coloration of the part under their lower jaw gives them the name 'cutthroat' trout. Dark round spots cover evenly across their body. They get the name cutthroat due to these red markings. But not all species of trouts with these markings are cutthroat trouts. The cutthroat trouts have basibranchial teeth below their tongue. They also have a maxillary extending beyond their posterior eye edge. Their scale count is above 150. Both male and female trouts look alike.

Cutthroat Trout

How cute are they?

Trouts are colorful cute fish with big, dark spots on their body. It is endearing to observe their behavior underwater.

How do they communicate?

Cutthroat trouts communicate by visual sense. They locate and hunt prey only with the help of sight. During courtship, they use body signals and gestures to attract female trout. They also use chemical signals to locate their original spawning habitats.

How big is a cutthroat trout?

A cutthroat trout grows to a size ranging from 6-40 in (15-102 cm). Both males and females look alike.

How fast can a cutthroat trout swim?

When it comes to cutthroat trout vs rainbow trout, cutthroat trout are as fast as rainbow trout. Their average swim speed is 2.7 ft/s (0.84 m/s).

How much does a cutthroat trout weigh?

The cutthroat trout weighs around 2-17 lb (0.9-7.7 kg). The environment in which a cutthroat trout lives affects its growth. The Lahontan cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii henshawi) is the world record cutthroat trout. It is the largest growing trout in North America. In 1925 the world record was set for a 41 lb (18.6 kg) fish.

What are the male and female names of the species?

There are no specific male and female names.

What would you call a baby cutthroat trout?

The baby cutthroat trout is known as a hatchling or fry.

What do they eat?

The cutthroat trouts feed on a number of food sources and are known as opportunistic feeders. They mainly feed on all forms of insects, like larva, pupa, and adults. Mayflies, stoneflies, ants, grasshoppers, beetles, caddisflies, and crickets are some common examples. They also feed on fish eggs and small fish. Depending on availability, the coastal cutthroat trouts feed on crayfish, krill, shrimp, small squids, and crustaceans.

Are they eaten by humans?

Cutthroats are famous among fly fishing enthusiasts. They are eaten by humans and are rich in nutrients.

Would they make a good pet?

The cutthroat trouts are commercial fish, they are mainly harvested for food. It is not illegal to grow them as a pet in aquariums. Their colorful body with bright spots can make them good ornamental fish.

Did you know...

Heavy logging, mining, and pollution are threatening the cutthroat trout population.

Trouts are physostomes - they rapidly fill their bladder with gulps of air and expel air. This helps them to ascend through the waters quickly.

Cutthroat trout interbreed with rainbow trout to produce a fertile hybrid known as cutbows. They have similar morphology and color as the cutthroat trout with their distinct orangish-red mark.

Large commercial rearing of cutthroat trouts is done to reintroduce these species to various habitats including non-native rivers and lakes. They are also grown to meet the increasing demand among consumers.

Cutthroat trout are popular gamefish. Anglers have associations and annual fishing games to exclusively catch cutthroat trouts. Due to the growing demand and mismanagement, almost all states and provinces have started regulating fishing of cutthroat trouts.

The cutthroat trout is the state fish of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. Certain subspecies of cutthroat are the state fish of Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah. The Bonneville cutthroat became a state fish of Utah as it was an important food source for Native Americans and Mormon pioneers.

The population has reduced drastically, that they only occupy 10 to 14% of their original habitat range. The cutthroat trout is assumed to have reached the west as it evolved from Oncorhynchus, which migrated to the mountain west along the Pacific Coast via the Columbia and Snake Rivers 3-5 million years ago.

There are tons of flies on the market that will work for catching all species of cutthroat fish, including sea-run cutthroat fish. You can use these to catch the cutthroats. Gold bead prince nymphs, stonefly imitations, and flies like elk hair caddis fly imitations are some examples. Casting lures, the Mepps spin flies, and Worden's rooster tails are ideal.

Lahontan cutthroat trout were listed as Endangered in 1970 under the Endangered Species Act and then reclassified as Threatened in 1975. The recent Threatened designation allows for recreational fishing of these sub-species of cutthroat trout. Westslope cutthroat trout have suffered a reduction in their range because of habitat loss and fragmentation, isolation of existing populations, and their ability to hybridize with rainbow trout, other subspecies of cutthroat trout. The Westslope Cutthroat Trout reached the east of the Continental Divide as a result of the Pleistocene glacial cycles.

How to identify cutthroat trout

The cutthroat can be identified by its typical orange marks along the undersides of their mandibles at the lower folding of the gill plate area. These 'cuts' are what give this trout its name. The coloration between the various subspecies can differ quite drastically. They can easily be distinguished from other trout species like the brook or brown, by the type of spots and yellow and reddish coloration of the fish overall. The cutthroat trout has unique, bright red, pink, or orange marks on the underside of their lower jaw.

How does a cutthroat trout's diet change as it gets older?

The hatchlings of cutthroat trout feed on small crustaceans and algae. As they grow older, they feed on small insects and crustaceans. Juveniles and adults are opportunistic feeders, they prey on any available item in their habitat.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fish from our brook trout facts and brown trout facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable cutthroat trout coloring pages.

Cutthroat Trout Facts

What Did They Prey On?

Insects, small fish, shrimp, fish eggs

What Type of Animal were they?


Average Litter Size?

200-450 eggs

How Much Did They Weigh?

2-17 lb (0.9-7.7 kg)

What habitat Do they Live In?

temperate freshwater, brackish water, and coastal marine

Where Do They Live?

western coasts of north-america

How Long Were They?

6-40 in (15-102 cm)

How Tall Were They?








Scientific Name

Oncorhynchus clarkii

What Do They Look Like?

Golden yellow, brownish-gray

Skin Type


What Are Their Main Threats?

humans, overfishing, interbreeding

What is their Conservation Status?

Least Concern
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Written by Christian Mba

Bachelor of Science specializing in Computer Science

Christian Mba picture

Christian MbaBachelor of Science specializing in Computer Science

Christian Mba is an experienced blogger and content writer with over a decade of experience. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Nigeria and has a keen interest in Python programming. Along with his writing and blogging expertise, he is also an SEO specialist with more than six years of experience. Chris, as he is commonly known, has a passion for music and enjoys playing the piano.

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