The Bighorn range and adjacent basin are among my favorite places in the west- seven thousand feet of relief provides opportunities for browns and rainbows plus brook trout, lake trout, golden trout, splake, Bear River and Finespotted cutthroat, walleye, smallmouth, carp, yellow perch, crappie, tiger muskie, and probably a few more I can’t think of at 7:30 on a Tuesday morning, pre-coffee. But they’re all from somewhere else. Yellowstone Cutthroat spent millennia evolving in place. The earliest Americans knew them as did their descendants, the Crow and the Shoshone. John Colter and Jim Bridger knew these speckled trout of the west. Buffalo Bill and Butch Cassidy knew them, too.
Yellowstone cutts occupy only eight percent of their native range, mostly small headwater streams above barrier falls where they can’t be out-competed by hordes of brook trout or bred out of existence by rainbows. Biologists trek out to these headwater streams and study their depth and discharge, look for the presence of gravel beds for spawning, examine water chemistry and bug communities to evaluate whether the streams may support native fish. The effort requires public buy-in, and Wyoming Game and Fish will be holding public comment meetings to guide future restoration efforts. Attend if you can, or find additional opportunities for public comment through the Wyoming Game and Fish meetings website.