Friday, April 27, 2018

Armchair Lifer: Cutthroat Trout

Sometimes in the world of lifelist fishing, anglers realize they have caught a new species of fish long after the fish has been captured when looking at some old photos; that species is called an armchair lifer—supposedly the angler is sitting at his armchair and not fishing, hence the name.

Anyways, I was going over my old photos and came across this:

This fish was caught way back in 2014, in Lake Crescent, Washington. I had identified it as a beardslee trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss irideus f. loc. beardsleei. This is a local form of coastal rainbow trout endemic to Lake Crescent. At the time, I thought that the above fish was a beardslee and thus my lifer rainbow trout. 

Upon further, more recent consideration, I have determined that this fish is actually a crescenti cutthroat trout, Oncorhynchus clarki clarki f. loc. crescenti, a local form of coastal cutthroat trout also endemic to Lake Crescent.

Some factors playing in to my identification:

- Fin pigmentation: coastal cutthroats, as well as crescenti cutthroats, have yellowish fins and often display brighter oranges at the fin tips. Beardslee rainbows have clear fins.
- Color: Crescenti cutthroat have a greenish tinge, while beardslee are generally a deeper blue.  
- Head proportions: the maxilla of the cutthroat is generally longer, as are the jaws. 
- Spotting below lateral line: In crescenti cutthroats, there are much more spots below the lateral line, and those spots are more well-defined. 
- Cutthroat marking: although coastal cutthroat trout sometimes lack the "cutthroat marking," and certain subspecies of rainbow trout sometimes possess it, you can see a tiny bit of pigment where the cut should be.

For comparison, here are some images of crescenti cutthroat trout:

And here are some images of beardslee rainbow trout:

This means that the cutthroat trout belongs on my lifelist, at the moment bringing my total up to 127 species of fish. It also means that I caught a cutthroat trout before a rainbow, which I think is pretty cool.