I have always loved to fish for cutthrout trout. My first encounter with this fish was at a family reunion at Bear Lake, Ut.  I was fishing with my brother-in-law in my 14 foot aluminum boat powered by a 71/2 H.P. outboard motor. We were trolling along the shore in about 30 feet of water. This was before the days of fishfinders and downriggers. I was dragging the line behind the boat with a weighted orange and black flatfish.

We knew that the shoreline has a sharp, deep drop off about 50 feet from shore and we were trying to fish just before the drop off. The fish seemed to like to swim along the ridge. We had just turned around to heads back to camp when it hit. I knew right off that I had a good sized fish by the way it took out my line. After fighting it for about five minutes, I got it up to the boat. Unfortunately, my brother-in-law missed it with the net and the battle started all over. It was large enough that all I could do was keep the line tight and wear it down. We were able to net it the second time around. They are nicknamed “blue nose” because of the light blue color of the skin on top of the head. It weighed just under 7 pounds, a nice catch and worthy of praise back at camp. What a great way to end a fun day of fishing.

Cutthroat trout caught at Bear Lake

Cutthroat trout caught at Bear Lake

How to fish for Cutthroat Trout

The habitat range of Cutthroat Trout spans from Northern California to southern Alaska to inland in the cool, clear mountain lakes. In freshwater, they live in clear, cool water in coastal streams, pools and tributaries of small rivers. In the ocean, cutthroat feed and shelter in estuaries, tidal lagoons and marshes. They generally stay close to shore in protected areas. Eelgrass and kelp beds are prime Cutthroat Trout habitat, as they host a wide variety of prey species, and provide shelter.

Cutthroats as a rule like big meals and their preferred diet consists of salmon fry, sculpins, stickleback, and smaller trout or other small fish. In waters that don’t contain these big morsels they survive on the usual trout fare of chironomids, leeches, and various nymphs and adult insects. They are a true opportunist and will often take a big offering even during a hatch of other insects, yet they can sometimes be as selective a quarry as any other fish.

Cutthroat Trout can generally be found along shorelines with eel grass, oyster beds or rocky bottoms within several miles of a stream mouth. Places with boulders, points, current rips or back eddies are also productive places to search for these fish. One feature of coastal cutthroat that makes them especially appealing to fly anglers is that are typically found fairly close to shore and are usually well within the reach of shore bound fisherman. The best time of the year to fish for cutthroat is from early Spring through Fall, with the months of September and October typically producing some of the best fishing of the year.

Downrigger boat gear r trolling tackle rod and reel

Downrigger boat gear  trolling tackle rod and reel

flyfishing for cutthroat

flyfishing for cutthroat

To fly fish for Cutthroat off the beach a 9 foot 5 or 6 weight fly rod with matching reel spooled with WF or intermediate sinking line and 8 to 10 feet of 4 pound leader. Long casts and quick retrieves are the norm. The quick strip retrieve is important to remember. Since Cutthroat Trout prey on minnows and fry they expect their prey to be moving quickly to try to escape. Strip your fly quickly and maintain that speed. Sometimes a trout will follow the fly a good distance, often creating a slight wake behind it.

Fly patterns such as the Mickey Finn, rolled muddler, marabou clouser minnow, Royal Coachman, Professor, and any other fly pattern that mimmics a minnow will work for Cutthroat trout.

Spincasting off the beach also can be a productive method for Cutthroat. Your fishing tackle should be on the light side. Use ultralight spinning gear loaded with 4 to 6 lb. Test line. A wide variety of ultralight spinners and spoons will work. Tiny Mepps spinners or Panther Martin spinners or tiny spoons in most colors will work, especially red and yellow. Fishing with a wet fly can be deadly, on both spin or flyfishing gear. Spincasters should use a casting bubble or pinch some splitshot 16 to 24 inches up the line from the fly.

Trolling is also a good way to catch cutthroat trout. For best results, troll a flatfish that represents the common fish in the area A mepps spinner or a squid is also effective. . Silver perch, orange, or blue are the preferred colors. A 4 -6 in. flatfish is a killer for the larger fish. Troll in a zig zag course along the shoreline or in the river or stream deltas. I like to troll 2-3 mph and jerk the line occasionally to get their attention.

Get out and enjoy the thrill of hooking into a great fish for fighting and good eating.


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