Fish and Aquatic Conservation

illustration of a Lahontan cutthroat trout

Lahontan cutthroat trout

Oncorhynchus clarkia henshawi (Richardson,1836)

Cool Facts

In the mid‐1800s, the abundance of Lahontan cutthroat trout in the Tahoe‐Truckee watershed was so staggering that the supply of this fish was thought to be inexhaustable. Commercial fisherman were shipping and marketing these fish as far away as San Francisco. Historically, the mammoth sized Lahontan cutthroat trout were the top predators in the Truckee, Carson, Walker, Humboldt, and Quinn River drainages.

SIZE: Lahontan cutthroat trout can grow up to 4 feet long (122cm) and weigh up to 40 lbs. (18.2 kg)

RANGE: Lahontan cutthroat trout range between Northern Nevada, northeastern California and southeastern Oregon.

HABITAT: Lahontan cutthroat trout inhabit fresh water lakes, rivers and streams.

DIET: These trout feed primarily on aquatic insects, crustaceans, small fishes and floating plant matter.

Natural History

The Lahontan cutthroat trout is one of 13 living sub-species of cutthroat trout. This fish is native to the Lahontan Basin of northern Nevada, northeastern California and southeastern Oregon. This subspecies exhibits three life histories including stream-type, migratory and lacustrine forms.


Lahontan cutthroat trout were listed as Endangered in 1970 under the Endangered Species Act and then reclassified as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1975. The recent Threatened designation allows for recreational fishing of this sub-species of cutthroat trout.

In 1884, there were 11 documented lake‐dwelling or lacustrine populations and approximately 600 stream‐type populations within their native range. Today, only 8.6% of Lahontan cutthroat trout’s historical stream habitat is currently occupied. Self‐sustaining native populations of these fish remain in less than 1% of their historic lake habitat. The National Fish Hatchery System of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with the Tribes, states, other Federal agencies and non‐governmental organizations to help recover and re‐introduce these fish back into their native ranges.

In addition to restoring indigenous populations of Lahontan cutthroat trout through their rearing and stocking efforts, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has teamed up with the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to implement additional conservation measures outlined under the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout Initiative.

The goals of this initiative is to protect existing pure populations from contact with non‐native trout, sustain Lahontan cutthroat populations in lakes, connect isolated populations into larger, more resilient populations and increase recreational fishing opportunities for Lahontan cutthroat trout.

Migration Behavior

Lahontan cutthroat trout are a migratory species. There are stream dwelling, lake dwelling and migratory forms of this species, where the migratory forms move back and forth between lakes and the tributaries of the lakes. Historical records indicate that native Lahontan trout used to migrate 120 miles between Pyramid Lake and Lake Tahoe.