Westslope Vs. Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout
Fish identification can be difficult and take some time to learn. The two most difficult trout species to tell apart are going to be our Montana native cutthroats. Cutthroat can be distinguished from other trout mainly by their large red slashes on either side of their lower jaw. The Yellowstone Cutthroat trout and the Westslope Cutthroat trout look very similar and have overlapping ranges specifically in the Bozeman area. Being able to correctly identify fish species is a great skill to have and can be very important. Here are the main characteristics to tell these cutty species apart.
Westlope cutties typically will lack spots below the lateral line and near their pectoral fins. Along with this, their spots are smaller, black, and irregular in shape and much more numerous towards the caudal fin. The overal color of these trout can be more silvery or greenish than the Yellowstone cutties.
Yellowstone Cutthroat will have more spots below their lateral line, have larger rounded spots which again become more numerous or dense towards their tail.
Here is the Montana field guide to all of the trout species found in this fishy state.
Both of these species are species of concern here in Montana so make sure when you catch a cutthroat you keep that trout wet and ensure it swims off with gusto.
If you are interested in catching a cutthroat our guides can help you find them on a guided trip.