Save the Yellowstone Cutts
Yellowstone Cutthroats return to upper Yellowstone River, 2018
Reports have been circulating that the Yellowstone cutthroat trout are returning to their
upper Yellowstone River spawning streams above Yellowstone Lake. To see for
ourselves, my daughter Diana Miller and I decided to pack into the Thorofare region of
the Bridger Teton National Forest  during the week of June 23-30. This would be a return
of sorts for us as well since Diana and I hadn't been into the Thorofare together for over
20 years. The trip took us over 26 miles of wilderness horse packing trails and past the
legendary "Parting of the Waters" where Pacific Creek flows west and Atlantic Creek
flows east. Both streams originate from the same stream (Two Ocean Creek) and split
to flow to two oceans on Two Ocean Pass.
The trip was fantastic but the real reward was seeing, and catching, incredible numbers
of Yellowstone cutthroats. Between the two of us, we probably landed well over 50 fish,
obtained fin clips from 36 for genetic testing, and saw literally thousands. Everywhere
we went we saw, and caught, cutthroats. They were in Atlantic Creek, the mainstem
Yellowstone River, and the Thorofare River. And they were spawning. Our trip was timed
to catch the end of the spawn and we were successful.
The biggest fish caught was 24-25 inches and very healthy and fat weighing over 5
pounds. The average fish was 20-23 inches and the smallest was about 14 inches.
There weren't a lot of smaller fish, but a few.
The other interesting part of the trip was the number of bald eagles (and pelicans) who
were obviously also keyed in on the cutthroats. We didn't see any bears but I have to
believe that they are also aware that the cutthroats have returned to their natal streams.
Anglers are also aware of the return as we saw several groups (both outfitted and on
their own) experiencing this incredible fishery.
The return of the cutthroats to the upper Yellowstone River drainage is unbelievably
rewarding to experience. Everyone who has worked so hard on this issue should share
in the rewards. Trout Unlimited and all the partners (National Park Service, US
Geological Survey, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, National Park Conservation
Association, and Yellowstone Forever) should be proud of their role. We know the battle
isn't over; the lake trout are still suppressing the cutthroat population in the Lake.
However, cutthroat numbers are much better than they were just a few years ago.
Dave Sweet
Yellowstone Lake Special Project Manager, Wyoming TU