The enduring species of our oldest nationwide park, the Yellowstone cutthroat attracts anglers from around the globe.
Picture by USFWS
The names of many legendary fishing spots in Yellowstone Nationwide Park—Buffalo Ford, the Lamar Valley, the meadows of Slough Creek—are synonymous with massive, native Yellowstone cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii bouvieri) that can rise to a dry fly on a summer season day. Anglers dream of such locations as a result of they mix a lot of what we love concerning the sport: that it takes us to the place we will expertise true wilderness and pure magnificence and that it permits us to match wits with a sport fish on its house turf, within the very waters the place it advanced over tens of hundreds of years. In fact, Yellowstone cutthroats are neither the wariest nor the hardest-fighting trout within the West, however they’re stunning, willingly eat flies of all types, and inhabit crystal-clear streams within the midst of some unbelievable landscapes. The YCT can be one of many 4 subspecies of cutthroats that make up the Wyoming Cutt-Slam, the Utah Cutthroat Slam, and the Nevada Native Fish Slam packages. They’re additionally a part of the Western Native Trout Problem.
Vary and Species Historical past
The unique vary of the Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout (YCT) consists of the Yellowstone River drainage upstream of the Tongue River, the Snake River drainage upstream of Shoshone Falls. This consists of sizeable swaths of southern Montana, northwestern Wyoming, southeaster Idaho, and extends only a bit into northern Utah and Nevada, as nicely. The introduction of nonnative trout species—leading to elevated competitors and hybridization—and lack of habitat by means of growth and fragmentation have diminished the variety of river miles inhabited by YCT to lower than 45 % of historic norms (from roughly 17,400 river miles to simply 7,500). Hatcheries in Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho increase YCT to complement wild shares and to reintroduce the subspecies to waters the place it has been extirpated.
Map by way of NPS.gov
Yellowstone cutthroats show three life-history patterns: resident, fluvial, and adfluvial. Resident fish spend their complete lives in on stretch of a stream, often in headwater streams and people which were remoted. Fluvial YCT spend most of their lives in the principle stem of a river however migrate up tributaries to spawn, and adfluvial fish dwell in lakes and transfer to tributaries or outlet streams to spawn. These fluvial and adfluvial populations are most in danger from habitat fragmentation, through which the spawning waters are minimize off by roads, culverts, and different obstacles.
YCT favor chilly, clear, oxygenated water with a gravel substrate and little sediment. Good YCT habitat additionally consists of complicated cowl, equivalent to undercut banks and in-stream woody particles. Spawning happens in spring and early summer season, often after peak runoff, and the rising fry might start migrating instantly. At three years previous, they’re able to spawn, and YCT can dwell as much as eleven years.
What’s in a Identify?
The Yellowstone cutthroat trout was initially given the Latin identify Salmo bouvierii, after a U.S Military captain, in 1883. Later, nevertheless, taxonomists lumped the YCT and what we now name the westslope cutthroat right into a single subspecies, Salmo clarkii lewisii—named for the nice explorers Lewis and Clark, whose Corps of Discovery first encountered cutthroat trout on the Missouri River in 1805. Advances in genetics within the 1960s led scientists to separate the subspecies into two once more, restoring the identify bouvieri to the Yellowstone subspecies and coining the time period westslope for the opposite. Then, in 1989, all trout of the Pacific basin have been moved out of the Salmo genus and into the Oncorhynchus genus, reflecting a better relationship to the Pacific salmon.
Lake Trout Invasion
The important thing to thriving populations of Yellowstone cutthroats within the Yellowstone River drainage is the unbelievable fecundity of Yellowstone Lake and its many spawning tributaries. So prolific was the habitat that greater than 70,000 YCT have been counted on the mouth of a single feeder stream, Clear Creek, in 1978 alone. However by 2007, that quantity had fallen to simply 538. Unlawful introduction of Lake Trout by newbie “bucket biologists” someday within the 1980s triggered an enormous crash within the cutthroat inhabitants, which threatened the whole ecosystem that is dependent upon the fish. A single laker can eat 41 cutthroats per 12 months, and since they dwell in deep water, lake trout are tough to eradicate. Greater than 20 years of gill-netting, in addition to catch-and-kill laws, have allowed the cutthroat inhabitants to rebound considerably, with Clear Creek seeing greater than 700 fish in 2016, and biologists are feeling hopeful of additional restoration.
This video from 2016 spells out the lake-trout downside and highlights efforts to fight the voracious predators.
Spurred by the decline of Yellowstone cutthroat trout throughout its historic vary, many non-public/public partnerships have fashioned to guard the YCT that stay and reestablish populations which have disappeared. Ranchers and state and federal businesses usually workforce to guard and restore streams broken by incompatible farming and grazing practices. These tasks profit fish and landowners, as clear water and diminished erosion shield fish and agriculture. Ranchers are key companions in defending in-stream circulation for YCT with water leases, putting in and sustaining fish screens that stop lack of trout to irrigation diversions, and offering fish passage by changing impassable culverts or putting in fish ladders on irrigation diversions. Conservation NGOs and personal corporations like Orvis are additionally valued companions, as they’ll contribute grant funds, educate the general public, and lots of contribute labor to conservation tasks.
Local weather change is contracting the acceptable habitat for Yellowstone cutthroat trout towards larger elevations, which stay the present stronghold for the species. Conservation of YCT in a warming local weather requires prioritizing these high-elevation refuges. Retaining streams wholesome, with functioning, protected areas of streamside vegetation, is among the many actions that can improve the resilience of particular person populations. Enough stream circulation is one other important element in selling resilience to local weather change, and partnerships amongst water customers, and private and non-private contributors can be important. Eradicating the threats posed by nonnative fish will present secure havens, the place YCT can dwell as they did earlier than introduction of brook trout, rainbow trout, and brown trout.
Flies and Ways
Relying on habitat and meals availability, Yellowstone cutthroats can vary from a couple of inches lengthy to nicely over 20. The IGFA doesn’t award data for every cutthroat subspecies, so there isn’t any official world file for Yellowstones. Nonetheless, in August 2016, an Idaho lady landed a 28-inch, Eight- to 10-pound fish on the South Fork of the Snake River, which in all probability one of many largest Yellowstones ever recorded.
Yellowstone cutthroats are much less pisciverous than different trout species, feeding extra on bugs and different invertebrates, which makes Yellowstones extra prone to eat dry flies. Whereas matching the hatch is all the time the most effective tactic, terrestrial patters equivalent to ants, grasshoppers, and beetles work nicely from late summer season by means of the primary frost. A tandem rig that includes a terrestrial or attractor sample trailing an emerger will be lethal. If the fish gained’t come to the floor, strive a double-nymph rig or a small streamer, equivalent to a Woolly Bugger or Zuddler.
Matching the hatch isn’t all the time crucial once you’re chasing YCTs, however they are often picky at occasions.
For Extra In-Depth Info on YCT: