Sunday, October 14, 2007
The fish so nice they named it twice!
I cannot think of a species of fish that I love more than these silvery coastal dwellers. They come to a fly with aggressive abandon and fight like a fish twice their size.
Beautiful is not an apt description of their various colors of the spring, summer and fall. The resident variety will take on a heavily spotted bronze coloration with the red gill slash (where they got their name) very prominent. The sea run variety, while heavily spotted also will be silver with a deep hued blue back...hence the nickname "blue backs" and the red slash will be very faint.
The fall is prime time action for cutthroat trout which supposedly follow the fall salmon up river to feed on their eggs. That may just be an urban legend because while they will feed on just about anything, aquatic insects by in large make up the cutthroat's diet.
As aggressive as they are they are also a species most affected by man's interference. The introduction of various species of hatchery fish on the north coast rivers have pushed these trout out of their usual habitat and forced them to compete with those hatchery plants for available food. The coastal rivers are not blessed with an abundance of food so these sensitive fish have to feed on what is available, The over sized hatchery smolt have depleted their numbers to a critical point and so any harvest would put them in even more peril.
The north coast locals do not have much regard for cutthroat trout and treat them as little more than nuisance in their pursuit of the larger salmon and steelhead. They are not much more than a bait stealer to salmon/steelhead anglers and they take little care in releasing them.
The over all well being of a coastal anadromous river can be measured by it's cutthroat trout population.
If you have a wild coastal cutthroat trout population in decline it's a good bet that other wild fish in that system are in trouble also.
These fish face many obstacles in their recovery. Over harvest, habitat degradation, hatcheries and angler ignorance hurt these once plentiful populations.
These trout are the last of the wild trout on the northern coast save for wild steelhead.
They are as beautiful as they are mysterious and delightful.