By Montana Grant

Posted: April 21, 2019

Yellowstone Lake Cutthroat trout are finally making a return. During the 1990’s, lake trout were introduced into Yellowstone Lake illegally. Soon after the cutthroat trout population began to disappear.

Clear Creek was one of the best spawning areas for Cutthroats. In 1978, 70,000 trout were recorded. In 2007, only 538 returned to spawn. The larger and more aggressive lake trout were feeding on the vulnerable Cutthroats. A population crash could result in their extinction.

Todd Koel, Yellowstone Parks Fisheries Supervisor, said 24 years of gillnetting and no limits on lake trout are starting to turn the tide. Lake trout numbers are dramatically down. 400,000 lake trout were removed from the lake in 2017. Most were much smaller. In 2018 the gill net boats only harvested 100,000 lake trout. This 25% drop in catch is huge. The Park has become better at targeting the lake trout.

Fewer and smaller lake trout are allowing the Cutthroat trout to rebound. Fishing reports are bragging about more and bigger cutthroats once again. In the early 2000’s Outfitters began canceling Cutthroat fishing expeditions. One early summer trip last season into the Thoroughfare River region of the park, reported catching more than 100 cuts with many over 20 inches. Cuts were actively spawning. That was very exciting.

Gillnetting operations average around 1 million dollars a season! The Park Biologists also use tagged Judas Fish to locate prime Lake Trout spawning sites. By targeting these areas, efforts can be more positive. Reducing oxygen levels over eggs before they hatch has been effective. Dropping dead and decomposing gillnetted Lake trout onto the nests, or small pellets of organic matter uses up oxygen as they decay. Once they rot, the oxygen returns but not the eggs.

With a little luck and more hard work, Cutthroat Trout may return to their glory days. Buffalo Ford could become a wonderful destination once again.

Now if they could only get rid of some of the trout eating pelicans while they are at it!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, catch him at

New Podcast!