Lahontan Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii henshawi)
Lahontan cutthroat trout (LCT) are an inland species of trout native to the Lahontan Basin of Nevada, California, Oregon and Utah. LCT are thought to be the largest species of inland trout with reports of fish over 60 pounds from the mining days. That’s a big fish! The largest trout on record is 41 pounds caught in Nevada’s Pyramid Lake in 1925. The earliest known fossil records date the trout to living ten million years ago (Smith and Stearly 2018). The trout’s central hub was Lake Lahontan (the size of Lake Erie) which formed after the last ice age, reaching its peak size about 12,700 years ago. Here, the trout flourished and spawned up its many tributaries.
LCT are an important traditional food source for the Paiute Tribe and much like the tragic stories of decline of the American bison, sage-grouse, and many other game species that native peoples depended on for sustenance, populations of LCT began plummeting precipitously after white settlers colonized the Great Basin in the mid-1800s. Overharvesting, livestock grazing, logging impacts, dewatering for agriculture and industry and pollution decimated populations over the preceding decades. The trout were once so abundant that settlers established fish canneries for export to mining camps and population centers. By the 1940s, the Pyramid Lake Lahontan trout went extinct and remnant populations were genetically isolated in headwater streams throughout the Great Basin.
In the 1970s, the Paiute began stocking Pyramid Lake with LCT to revive populations of the fish using Summit Lake strain but the trout did not grow large. In 2005 native Pyramid Lake trout were discovered in an isolated stream in Utah and managers brought these fish back to Pyramid Lake where populations have recovered. The Pyramid Lake reintroduction is a great conservation success story, however, hatchery programs are still needed to sustain the population in the lake. While the Pyramid Lake population has recovered, LCT are struggling to survive across the rest of their range and are under threat of extinction.
LCT - WWP Habitat Condition Assessment