What Trout Are Native to Montana?

Trout are a prized fish species that attracts anglers from all over the world. Montana, with its abundant rivers and lakes, offers some of the best trout fishing opportunities in the United States. In this article, we will explore the native trout species that call Montana home.

Montana’s Native Trout Species:

Montana is home to several native trout species, each with its own unique characteristics and habitat preferences. Let’s take a closer look at these magnificent fish:

1. Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout:

The Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii bouvieri) is perhaps the most iconic native trout species in Montana. Known for its vibrant red-orange slash marks under the jaw, this trout is found in various river systems across the state. It prefers clear, cold water and can be found in both small mountain streams and larger rivers.

2. Westslope Cutthroat Trout:

The Westslope Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii lewisi) is another native species that thrives in Montana’s waters. It has distinct black spots scattered along its body and a reddish coloration on its lower fins. This trout prefers slower-moving water and can be found in both rivers and lakes throughout the state.

3. Bull Trout:

Bull Trout (Salvelinus confluentus) is a native char species that inhabits Montana’s colder waters. Often mistaken for Dolly Varden, Bull Trout have a more robust body shape with light-colored spots on a darker background. They are typically found in large, deep rivers and lakes but require clean, cold water to thrive.

4. Arctic Grayling:

The Arctic Grayling (Thymallus arcticus) is an aesthetically stunning fish known for its large sail-like dorsal fin with vivid hues of purple, blue, and orange. Although not technically a trout, it is a sought-after species for anglers in Montana. Arctic Grayling prefer clear, cold water with moderate current and can be found in some of Montana’s mountain streams and lakes.

    Other Trout Species Found in Montana:

In addition to the native trout species mentioned above, Montana is also home to several non-native trout species that have been introduced for recreational fishing purposes. These include:

  • Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)
  • Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis)
  • Brown Trout (Salmo trutta)
  • While these non-native species may not be native to Montana, they have successfully established populations and offer excellent angling opportunities throughout the state.

    Conservation Efforts:

    Protecting and preserving Montana’s native trout species is of utmost importance. Several organizations and agencies are actively involved in conservation efforts to ensure the long-term sustainability of these fish populations. These efforts include habitat restoration projects, fishing regulations, and education programs aimed at raising awareness about the importance of protecting native trout.

    In Conclusion:

    Montana’s waters are teeming with a variety of native trout species that provide anglers with unforgettable fishing experiences. From the iconic Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout to the stunning Arctic Grayling, each species offers its own unique beauty and challenge. It is crucial that we continue to protect these precious fish and their habitats for future generations to enjoy.

    So next time you find yourself casting a line in Montana’s rivers or lakes, take a moment to appreciate the rich diversity of native trout that call this beautiful state home.

    Photo of author

    Lindsay Collins