The South Fork is home to one of the few pure native strains of Westslope Cutthroat left in the state of Montana. The limestone water is loaded with their favorite food, hatches are abundant on the Flathead. See Map
The Westslope Cutthroat trout is one of two subspecies of native cutthroat found in the state. Together, they have been designated Montana's state fish. Cutthroat trout are so named for the red slashes near the lower jaws. The westslope cutthroat's historical range was all of Montana west of the Continental Divide as well as the upper Missouri River drainage. This fish has been seriously reduced in its range by two primary factors: hybridization with rainbow and/or Yellowstone cutthroat, and habitat loss and degradation. Since the westslope is recognized as a very important part of our native fish fauna it has been designated a Montana Fish of Special Concern in Montana. Pure westslope cutthroat have been identified by genetic analysis and form the broodstock maintained by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks at its Anaconda hatchery. Westslope cutthroat are common in both headwaters lake and stream environments.
What cutthroat trout eat!
They feed primarily on aquatic insect life, zooplankton, love to rise to a dry fly. Grass hoppers are their main meal in August.
Cutthroat spawn in the spring in running water, burying their eggs in a nest called a redd. The eggs hatch in a few weeks to a couple of months. The newborn fry frequently migrate back to lakes to rear after 1 to 2 years in their native stream (FWP). Westslope cutthroat is a trout with small, nonrounded spots, with few spots on the anterior body below the lateral line. Coloration varies, but generally is silver with yellowish hints, though bright yellow, orange, and especially red colors can be expressed to a much greater extent than on coastal or Yellowstone cutthroat. Surprisingly, the westslope cutthroat trout is the only native trout species in the rivers and streams of western Montana. These pretty fish are also found in many pristine high country lakes and ponds. The westslope cutthroat trout is a beautiful fish that displays brilliant spawning colors. It can be identified as a cutthroat trout by the iconic red to orange slashes under the lower jaw. To distinguish westslope cutthroat trout from other cutthroat species, you can look for more small spots by the tail and none by the pectoral fin and a more silvery or greenish color. See our Photo Album & Videos.
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