I got out of the Thorofare July 12th after an incredible trip to experience the run of Yellowstone cutthroats to the upper Yellowstone River system. This is my second year of packing into this area to observe "The Return" of the Yellowstone cutthroats. The first trip, made in 2018, was chronicled in a video accessed by the link below. Although we were probably a couple weeks late for the peak of the run this year, there were still lots of big, beautiful cutthroats in the system. In addition, on our way in, we met several groups going out and they were still beaming with their own stories of catching these beautiful fish. This second trip gave us a chance to explore some new spawning tributaries and collect much needed samples for documenting the return.
Yellowstone Lake and the surrounding watershed used to be home to around 4,000,000 of these fish and was considered the last major population of the species. It was the stronghold as it was without the normal threats (development, warming, habitat degradation, invasive species) that are found in other parts of the fish's native range. Then in 1994 lake trout were discovered in the system. These voracious predators simply ate the cutthroat population to near extirpation (90-95% decline) over the next 15 years. Suppression of the lake trout started immediately but was not successful until about 2011 in reversing the population of the lakers. It has been a very difficult battle and it isn't over, but the lake trout numbers are finally in decline and the cutthroat are coming back. It also has been very expensive with suppression costs of around $2,000,000 annually. Finally, the population of Yellowstone cutthroats is on the rise.
Wyoming Trout Unlimited is proud to be a part of this effort on Yellowstone Lake along with many, many partners. Rep Your Water has been a long time supporter of Wyoming Trout Unlimited. Their support has allowed this and many other conservation efforts to help coldwater fisheries in Wyoming.
Thank you Rep Your Water and everyone who values our native cutthroat trout.
Yellowstone Lake Special Project Manager, WY TU