Wild trout naturally reproduce in Montana's rivers and streams and spawn the young that restock Montana's waters. But, Montana's native trout species face risks of long-term health and survival due to a number of factors: human-caused impacts on their habitat, such as, increased angling pressure, dams, and irrigation. Add to that the extreme climate change warming the normally cold waters, which are necessary for Montana native trout survival. Also, for a number of years, native species have been inundated with introduced species by the state and others.


Bull Trout
Salvelinus confluentus

Bull trout have very specific habitat needs for many of its stages, making it more susceptible to environmental degradation than most other trout. Adult bull trout require cold water temperatures, clean cobble/boulder substrates, and overhead cover. Spawning redds are only constructed in stream reaches where upwelling ground water is available to aerate the buried eggs. Bull trout eggs are easily smothered by low levels of silt. Emerging fry and juveniles require clean rock stream substrates with sufficient open spaces for them to hide in as they develop into sub-adults. As climate change is warming, and warming the waters, this is making it increasingly difficult for Bull Trout survival. During drought conditions, irrigation of river/stream water lowers the water levels, which causes the water to warm, further harming the Bull Trout survival.

The bull trout is a Montana Species of Concern and is classified as Threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists. Declines in bull trout abundance and distribution have been caused by habitat loss and degradation from land and water management practices; population isolation and fragmentation from dams and other barriers; competition, predation and hybridization with introduced non-native fish species (lake trout, northern pike, brook trout and others); historical overharvest; and poaching.

Harvesting Bull Trout in Montana is illegal, except in Swan Lake, where it is permitted. To assist anglers in preventing accidental harvest due to misidentification, a Bull Trout Identification and Education webpage at the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks website was created, which includes a pre-test, PDF and E-Book tutorials and a final test.






Westslope Cutthroat Trout
Oncorhynchus clarkii lewisi

The westslope cutthroat trout is the official Montana state fish and one of two native cutthroat trout types (Yellowstone Cutthroat) found in the state. The westslope is native to western Montana and is also found in the Missouri River drainage on the east side of the Continental Divide. This fish has been seriously reduced in its range, which originally spanned all of Montana west of the Continental Divide as well as the upper Missouri River drainage, by two primary factors: hybridization with rainbows and/or planted Yellowstone cutthroats, and human-caused habitat degradation and loss.

The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the U.S. Forest Service have been putting extra effort in recent years to restore westslope cutthroat to make sure this beautiful Montana native does not disappear from its native range. Management of this species involves protecting the population strongholds and making tough decisions on restoration priorities for the depressed populations. The State of Montana has altered fishing regulations to reduce fishing mortality.




Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout
Oncorhynchus clarkii bouvieri


The Yellowstone cutthroat trout is one of two cutthroat trout subspecies (Westslope Cutthroat) in Montana. They have a golden coloration and larger spots more widely distributed on their sides than the westslope cutthroat trout. The Yellowstone cutthroat is native to the Yellowstone River drainage of southwest and south-central Montana. Like the westslope cutthroat, this fish readily interbreeds with rainbow trout. Due to more restricted range, Yellowstone cutthroats are more threatened than westslope cutthroats. The Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout are also a Montana Fish of Special Concern status. Much of the cutthroats spawning habitat in tributaries of the upper Yellowstone River has been lost to irrigation, which lower the water level of the streams before spawning and egg-incubation are completed in July and August.


For additional information on native Montana trout, please see:

The Trout Conservacy




Gallatin Wildlife Association
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