Cutthroat Trout Management Concepts Cutthroat Trout Management










Yellowstone was established in 1872. The park's fisheries were managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service during it's early years. Since then, policies and social attitudes concerning fish have seen many changes.


1881 through 1920

When explorers first visited Yellowstone National Park over 150 years ago, 85 of its 220 lakes contained fish. Between 1881 and 1909 non-native fish species were stocked into barren waters. Starting in 1920, lakes were stocked with native and non-native species. Among the non-native species attempted to be introduced into the lakes were the Atlantic salmon(Salmo salar) and the rainbow trout (Onchorhynchus mykiss). Lakes were further stocked by exotic fish when fisherman would dump their live bait into the lakes after a day of fishing. Today only about 40 lakes contain fish. The remaining 45 either restored themselves to their barren condition or were never planted. Although the Secretary of the Interior outlawed hunting in the park due to excessive market hunting of elk in 1883, commercial fishing remained legal until 1919. Prior to this commercial companies supplied the park hotels with trout. Yellowstone's hatchery program was established in 1899. By 1957, when the hatchery program ended, it had produced more than 818,000,000 trout eggs.

Lake hatchery constructed in 1927 as a continuation of the 1899 hatchery.

Unfortunately most of those eggs were used in waters outside of the park. Forest fire prevention that started in the 1890's dramatically effected the trout populations as well. Since there were fewer fires, fewer minerals released from fires were washed into the lakes and streams and the capacity for supporting life in the water was reduced.

1920's through 1940's

Starting in the 1920's, in order to attract more visitors to the park, predators were captured, noisy woodpeckers were killed near hotels and grandstands were erected around the dumps to allow the public to view the grizzly bears fighting for scraps of food. In 1920 a pelican population control program was started in order to enhance fishing. The white pelican (Pelecanus eyrthrorhynchos) ate the cutthroat trout and also carried a parasite that was transferred to the trout. For these reasons, nests were hunted for and eggs were destroyed. The campaign against the pelican ended in 1931. The 1920's also saw a change in angler harvest from sustenance to sport. Due to the overexploitation of the trout fishery, populations decreased in Yellowstone Lake and the surrounding areas. In 1949 the park increased its research on fish ecology and angler catch and today the park is focused on restoring and preserving native species.


1960's through 1980's

In the 1960's park policy changed and allowed for the recovery of the fisheries to begin. By 1960 it was illegal to use motor boats at Molly Island in order to enhance pelican populations. By 1966 the pelican populations started to recover. With the pelicans on the rise, they were able to begin reclaiming their place in the ecosystem. DDT was also outlawed in the park in 1964. In 1970 the dumps were closed to the bears and the bears began to be more dependent on fish again. These changes allowed some of the natural predators of the cutthroat to fill their niche in the Yellowstone ecosystem. However, the competition between anglers and wildlife for fish was now a problem. To remedy the problem, the park implemented catch-and-release policies in certain waters for certain species of fish in the 1980's. Places like Fishing Bridge, that had been closed to fishing in 1973 became popular places to view fish instead of catch them. Fish watching gained more popularity when a boardwalk was constructed and fish viewing signs were posted in 1984 and 1985 respectively. 1984 is believed to be the year that the lake trout were introduced into Yellowstone Lake.


1990's through 2001

The first lake trout was discovered in Yellowstone Lake in 1994 and a $10,000 reward was posted for any information leading to the capture of the party that was responsible for its introduction. By 1995 the park had started gillnetting for the lake trout. To encourage anglers to catch lake trout, the park opened fishing season on the first of June instead of the fifteenth of June for those who were willing to fish for lake trout. The start of the season was changed back to June 15 in 2001. Whirling's disease (Myxabolus cerebralis) was discovered in the cutthroat of Yellowstone Lake.