Westslope cutthroat trout

Freshly caught cutthroat trout lying on the rocks with reddish belly and dark spots on back and fins

Jim Cummins

Common names
Blackspotted cutthroat
Intermontane trout
Rocky Mountain trout
Missouri River trout
Latin name
Oncorhynchus clarkii lewisi

State record

WeightAnglerLocationDate Caught
4.71 lbs Angus Kerr Abernathy Lake, Okanogan County October 8, 2006

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Description and Range

Physical description

The westslope cutthroat trout is another trout that is a popular game fish and it is one of three subspecies of cutthroat trout that occur in Washington. It is also one of two cutthroat trout subspecies that are native to Washington. The other two are coastal (native) and Lahontan (non-native). Westslope cutthroat trout have an olive/bronze colored back and greenish-gold colored sides. Some red coloration can be seen on the gill cover and body. As with all cutthroat trout, they have the distinctive red slash mark on each side of their lower jaw and teeth on the back of their tongue. Westslope spots are primarily above the lateral line and are few there, but quite numerous on the posterior region of the body as well as the on the dorsal, adipose, and caudal fins. The westslope cutthroat trout got its name from being first described west of the Continental Divide. The do however occur both east and west of the Continental Divide.Average 8-12 inches. Westslope cutthroat can grow up to 16+ inches in quality populations.

How to fish

Westslope cutthroat trout are aggressive and opportunistic feeders, primarily preying on insects and other invertebrates.   This translates into them being a cooperative quarry for anglers. They love natural baits, with the best bait being nightcrawlers or a large garden worm.   Small wobbling spoons and spinners are also effective.   Fly anglers can be successful using streamers and nymphs as well as dry flies.

In the spring and fall, when the water tends to be cooler, westslope cutthroat will be found near the surface, but they are wary and spook easily.   Spin-fishing with a small wet fly or midge and a spinning bubble works best.   As summer approaches and the water begins to warm, westslope cutts will seek deeper areas off points and drop-offs. Try trolling with spoons or bait on a leader attached to cowbells or Davis-rigs.   During the summer months, shore anglers are successful using worms, cheese, and marshmallows.

Remember, when handling any fish you intend to release, wet your hands first so you don't take off the fish's protective slippery coating.   Dry hands will remove the protective coating and make the fish vulnerable to bacterial or fungal infections, which can kill them.