Lahontan Cutthroat

This post was last updated on April 24th, 2015 at 04:39 pm

The Lahontan Cutthroat Trout Species (Oncorhynchus clarki henshawi)

Lahontan Cutthroat TroutThe Lahontan Cutthroat was originally from a large ancient lake known as lake lahontan in NV. The lake during the last ice age fractured into many smaller lakes in the great basin. Some examples of these lakes are Walker lake, Pyramid lake and lake Tahoe.

The Lahontan only lives in a small fraction of its original range. It has suffered with serious hybridization with other non native trout species and predation from others in most of its range. There have been major efforts to remove the brook trout and Lake trout from some lakes that still support populations of the pure strain Lahontan cutthroat. In the late 19th and 20th centuries, people netted tons of Lahontan cutthroats to feed loggers and miners who were working in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. But the Truckee River was eventually dammed, and its water diverted to be  used for  irrigation, this caused a major drop in its levels. It was also heavily polluted with various harsh chemicals and sawdust, eventually leading to near extermination of the species in this core area.

The Lahontan Cutthroat is a very large species of cutthroat

Known to grow as large as 40 lbs! With unofficial accounts as large as 60 pounds. The Truckee river is connected to Pyramid lake, now residing on a Paiute Indian reservation. It used to be common place for the Large cutthroat to ascend this river to spawn. In 1884 there is documentation saying that John Fremont, an explorer in 1844 called the Truckee “the river of the salmon trout”, because of their huge size.  In 1925 the official world record Cutthroat a Lahontan was caught in Pyramid lake weighing 41 pounds.

In the 1970s, The Paiute tribe opened up a hatchery for the Lahontan Cutthroat trout. They used supplies of fish from nearby lakes and managed to create a comeback for the lahontan trout in Pyramid lake.  They also saved the Cui-ui sucker sucker from extinction in Pyramid lake. The people surrounding lakes that have populations of the Lahontan bring ladders out into the lake and stand on top of them to cast flies into the deeper water where the trout reside. It is common for them to catch some extremely large cutthroat, thanks to the efforts of the Paiute tribe.

Pyramid Lake

Pyramid lake NVThis lake sits just north of Reno NV, at the base of the sierra Nevada mountains. I am sitting on the edge of the lake as I type this. In 1925 the world record cutthroat trout was caught here. It was a massive lahontan strain cutthroat weighting 41 pounds.

A man preparing to fish pyramid lake NV
This gentleman is preparing to do a little fishing in pyramid lake.

Independence Lake

Independence Lake in the Sierra Nevada’s is one of only 2 Lakes that support a wild Lahontan cutthroat trout fishery. With the recent efforts to eliminate the brook trout from the lake, the lahontan cutthroats are doing better than they have in a very long time. The spawning numbers of fish in Independence lake seems to be rising and the Lahontan cutts might be gaining a foothold there.

The Lahontan Cutthroat trout is just another example of so many, where the fish are in danger of having the purity bred out of them by the Rainbow trout.