by Max McDermott


Introduction: Although it is not very well known to most people, the Coastal cutthroat trout is fairly common in both freshwater and saltwater throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Description: The Coastal cutthroat trout or sea-run cutthroat is a fairly slender fish, usually five times longer than it is deep. The tail is slightly forked and all of the tins are rayed. The redmarks on the jaw that give the cutthroat trout its name are only found on the coastal subspecies when it is in freshwater to spawn. While some inland subspecies have been known to reach lengths of up to 30 inches and weights up to 41 pounds coastal cutthroats rarely reach the weight of 3 pounds.

Life History: The Coastal cutthroat trout begins its 6 to 9 year life in small to medium-sized streams. After about two years of living in freshwater, the young trout head to the estuaries and near shore waters close to their natal streams where they remain for a year or two. After that they return in the winter or spring to their home streams where they spawn. The female digs a red in a gravelly stretch of the stream and lays her eggs while the male fertilizes the eggs. After this process is complete, the coastal cutthroat will either return to the saltwater or remain in the stream.

Habitat: While in saltwater, the Coastal cutthroat trout prefers estuaries and near shore waters over gravel. In freshwater it prefers fallen trees, boulders, undercut banks and other types of structure. Other subspecies may inhabit alpine lakes and streams as well as those in lowland areas.

Range: The Coastal cutthroat trout inhabits waters from southern Alaska to northern California. Other subspecies inhabit areas further inland.

Food: The Coastal cutthroat trout is an aggressive feeder, preying on shrimp, sand lance, sculpins and other shallow water creatures. Freshwater cutthroats prefer terrestrial insects, aquatic insects, sculpins, salmon fry and other small fish.

Food Value: Although it has no real commercial value, the Coastal cutthroat is prized by anglers as both a food fish and a sport fish.

Other Cutthroat Subspecies:
Lahontan Cutthroat
Piute Cutthroat
Yellowstone Cutthroat
Utah Cutthroat
Colorado Cutthroat
Rio Grande Cutthroat
Snake River Cutthroat