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Idaho has one state fish, but it’s actually three: Inside the cutthroat trout

Last week in our Inside Idaho series, we took a deep dive into Payette Lake to discover the legend of McCall’s lake monster – Sharlie. Her legend lives on today, over 100 years after her first sighting.

Another sought-after and well-known creature swimming in Idaho’s rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water? The cutthroat trout.

[Inside Idaho: Want to check a major trek off your Idaho bucket list? Only if you don’t Chicken Out 🐔]

In 1990, the 42nd Idaho Legislature and Governor Cecil Andrus adopted the cutthroat trout as Idaho’s state fish.

Sensitive to its environment, the cutthroat was designated the state’s fish to build “public awareness and support necessary for thoughtful use of our aquatic habitats and all associated resources.”

Native to Idaho

Cutthroat trout. Photo via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.

There are three subspecies native to Idaho, and all three are considered official state fish. They are the Bonneville, Westslope, and the Yellowstone cutthroat trout.

All three subspecies are native to the lakes and streams of Idaho. They all display the red slash marks just below their gill covers on the lower jaws – which is how the cutthroat got its name.

Fishing for cutthroat

Cutthroat trout can be found in rivers and lakes across the state.

According to the Idaho Chapter American Fisheries Society, the Yellowstone cutthroat trout can be found in the Snake River in eastern Idaho and the South Fork of the Snake River.

The Bonneville Cutthroat live in lakes and rivers in the southeastern corner of the state.

The Westslope Cutthroat trout can be found in cool rivers and lakes from central to northern Idaho.

Trout slam

If you are up for a fishing challenge, the Western Native Trout Initiative is hosting its annual trout slam – a contest to catch up to 18 species of native trout across 12 states.

The WNTI’s mission is to fund conservation efforts, including habitat restoration, watershed assessment, fish population surveys, and native trout education and outreach.

The Idaho Fish and Game also stock lakes with catchable 10-12 inch hatchery-raised trout each year. For updates and location, click here.

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Anna Daly - BoiseDev Reporter
Anna Daly - BoiseDev Reporter
Anna Daly is a reporter for BoiseDev. She's an Emmy-winning journalist, and a professor at the College of Western Idaho. Contact her at [email protected].

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