Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout

Yellowstone Lake, in the National Park and the Yellowstone River, in Wyoming and Montana contain the largest inland population of cutthroat trout in the world. Cutthroats are the only native trout of the Yellowstone ecosystem and were the dominant fish species here prior to Euro-American settlement. In the recent past, fishing for cutthroat trout has supported a $36 million annual sport fishery.

The Cutthroat – Lake Trout dilemma. The cutthroats of Yellowstone Lake spend most of the year in the lake. Cutthroats are spring spawners and journey from the lake in May through early July to the upper reaches  of its tributaries, spawn and return to the lake. Lake trout did not naturally occur in Yellowstone Lake, but in 1994 the Park Service documented their existence here. Through scientific means it was determined the lake trout may have been there up to 10 years prior to 1994. Regardless how and when they got there, lake trout are not native to Yellowstone Lake. Lake trout are naturally aggressive predators causing the native cutthroat population to spiral into a major decline since the mid-1980’s. Whirling disease, a virus, may have also contributed.

Good News! The National Park Service has spearheaded a plan for suppression of non-native lake trout in Yellowstone Lake and it’s working. Example: By netting in 2011 and 2012, 525,000 lake trout were eliminated. Experts predict that eliminating 50%  or more of the population for 4-5 consecutive years should cause a population crash of these non-native fish. Listed are some cutthroat surveys. Lake wide sampling began in 1968 and in 1984 the average number of YCT caught at survey sites reached 19.1 per net. In 2010 that number had fallen to an all time low of 5.3 per net. The number of YCT caught in 2013 climbed back to 13.2 per net and included both young, juvenile trout and larger older-age fish indicating that smaller fish are surviving into adulthood. For more information you can go to YNP website.

With the success of this on going program of lower lake trout numbers and higher cutthroat numbers, Dave Hettinger Outfitting (DHO) will again offer Remote fishing in the upper Yellowstone River region beginning in June 2016. This area is south of the Yellowstone Park boundary located in the Teton Wilderness. The waters to be fished are the upper Yellowstone and Thorofare Rivers plus Atlantic Creek.

*Click on the Yellowstone Fishing Camp page for details on our fishing trips.