WDFW LogoWashington Department of Fish & Wildlife
WDFW LogoConservation


Please wait, loading data...


Cutthroat being released Coastal Cutthroat
Oncorhynchus clarki clarki

Other Names: sea-run cutthroat, harvest trout
Average Size: 1-4 lbs, up to 6 lbs

Of the 13 subspecies of cutthroat trout indigenous to North America, only the coastal cutthroat is anadromous. But coastal cutthroat have complex life histories, and not all fish are anadromous. In any given body of water, some may migrate to sea, while others become resident fish. In fact, the offspring of resident fish may migrate, while the offspring of anadromous fish may "residualize."


Sea-run cutthroat spawn over a long period, from winter through May. They seek smaller streams where the flow is minimal and the substrate is small, almost sand. They prefer the upper-most portions of these streams, areas that are too shallow for other salmonids.


Most cutthroat rear in-stream for two to three years before first venturing into salt water. Emerging fry are less than an inch long, and are poorly able to compete with larger coho and steelhead fry for resources. To compensate, cutthroat fry use headwaters and low-flow areas that coho and steelhead avoid.

Unlike other anadromous salmonids that spend multiple years feeding far out to sea, cutthroat prefer to remain within a few miles of their natal stream. They do not generally cross large open-water areas. Some will overwinter in freshwater and only feed at sea during the warmer months. In rivers with extensive estuary systems, cutthroat may move around in the inter-tidal environment feeding, plus run up-river or out to sea on feeding migrations, wherever their nose tells them the food is. Protected estuaries and Puget Sound bays are excellent cutthroat habitat.


No Data.


No Data.


No Data.


Alevin - The lifestage of a salmonid between egg and fry. An alevin looks like a fish with a huge pot belly, which is the remaining egg sac. Alevin remain protected in the gravel riverbed, obtaining nutrition from the egg sac until they are large enough to fend for themselves in the stream.

Anadromous - Fish that live part or the majority of their lives in saltwater, but return to freshwater to spawn.

Emergence - The act of salmon fry leaving the gravel nest.

Fry - A juvenile salmonid that has absorbed its egg sac and is rearing in the stream; the stage of development between an alevin and a parr.

Kype - The hooked jaw many male salmon develop during spawning.

Parr - Also known as fingerling. A large juvenile salmonid, one between a fry and a smolt.

Smolt - A juvenile salmonid which has reared in-stream and is preparing to enter the ocean. Smolts exchange the spotted camouflage of the stream for the chrome of the ocean.

Substrate - The material which comprises a stream bottom.

Cutthroat Populations List
For more information on
salmon recovery and conservation, please contact
the WDFW Fish Program.

For problems accessing this
website or data found on this
website, please contact


Fun Facts
Did you know?
Coho and sockeye are found in freshwater year-round; coho in small coastal streams and sockeye in lakes. These fish are very susceptible to poor water quality, such as high temperatures and pollution.

Fun Facts
Did you know?
Salmon species have adapted to use virtually every part of every stream in the northwest.

Fun Facts
Did you know?
Big rivers are used by pink salmon in the lower reaches, chinook in the mainstem and larger tributaries, coho in small tribs, and steelhead in the uppermost tributaries.

Fun Facts
Did you know?
Small streams are used by chum in the lower reaches, coho next, and cutthroat in the headwaters.

Fun Facts
Did you know?
A moving fry is much easier to see than a motionless one. This is why salmon tend to spawn in parts of the stream that their offspring use for rearing; the emerging fry do not have to travel far to find rearing areas.
Fun Facts
Did you know?
The size of a salmon is usually related to its age. Pink salmon are the smallest fall-spawning salmon and are also the youngest, at two years. Chinook can live up to nine years, the longest, which is why some chinook can grow to over 100 pounds. Cutthroat, which live longer than pinks, are typically smaller because they spend less or no time feeding in productive marine waters of the north Pacific.
Fun Facts
Did you know?
There is a sixth fall-spawning salmon, the masu, or cherry salmon, which is found only in Asia. This fish occupies the same niche that the sea-run cutthroat trout occupies in North America.
Fun Facts
Did you know?
Steelhead and rainbow trout are the same species of fish; rainbow are the freshwater form, and steelhead the anadromous form.
Fun Facts
Did you know?
Steelhead and cutthroat trout were recently added to the salmon genus, Oncorhynchus, from the trout genus, Salmo. Also, the scientific name of steelhead changed from Salmo gairdneri to Oncorhynchus mykiss.