Colorado Trout Species

Colorado fish native

Cutthroat Trout – The greenback subspecies named official state fish of Colorado in 1994

The Cutthroat (Oncorhynchus clarki) deserves to be state fish, as it is the only trout that is native (indigenous) to Colorado. It has a crimson slash on either side of the throat, below the lower jaw. Most cutthroat are not found in their original range due to competition from the non-natives, over-fishing, and habitat loss. The subspecies found in Colorado include the Greenback, the Rio Grande, the Colorado River, and the Snake River (a non-native). The Greenback is a threatened species on both a state and federal level. More about the Greenback.

greenback Courtesy Colorado Division of Wildlife
riogrande A Rio Grande cutthroat rising to a grasshopper, by F.D. Hostetler

Where to find them: Turquoise and Twin Lakes, Clear Creek, Spinney Mtn, Taylor, Elevenmile Reservoirs, Lake John, Delaney Buttes lakes, Trappers Lake (the largest population of native Colorado River cutthroat trout in the world), South Platte River. Snake River Cutts have been introduced into a host of mountain streams and lakes.

Rainbow Trout – the main fish stocked in Colorado

rainbow Courtesy Colorado Division of Wildlife

The Rainbow (Oncorhynchus mykiss) was introduced to Colorado in the 1880’s. It is identified by a reddish stripe running down the side of the fish, and by black spots. It was introduced in 1888 into the Gunnison River. They are native to the U.S., but not to Colorado. They spawn in the Spring.

Record: The Colorado record for catching a Rainbow was in 2003 in Morrow Point Reservoir. The fish weighed 19 lbs, 10 oz.

Some fishing spots for Rainbow: almost anywhere –Arkansas, Conejos, Blue, Fryingpan, Gunnison, Taylor, Dolores, Big Thompson, South Platte, Rio Grande Rivers. Steamboat Lake, South Delaney Butte Lake, Turquoise and Twin Lakes. Taylor, Spinney Mtn, Elevenmile, Clear Creek, Road Canyon, Rifle Gap, and Stagecoach Reservoirs.

Brown Trout – abundant throughout Colorado

brown trout
Credit: U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Brown (Salmo trutta) was introduced to Colorado in 1890, and is native to Europe and Western Asia. It’s identifying marks are black spots, and reddish orange spots inside of light blue circles. They spawn in the fall.

Record: The record Brown caught in Colorado was in 1988, 30 lbs, 8 oz., caught at Roaring Judy Ponds.

Where to go:  Elevenmile, Taylor, Spinney Mtn, Beaver Creek, and Clear Creek Reservoirs; Turquoise Lake, Twin Lake, N. Delaney Buttes lakes; Arkansas, Conejos, Rio Grande, Blue, Gunnison, Taylor, Cache la Poudre, South Platte, Dolores, Big Thompson and numerous other rivers.

Brook Trout – a very prolific fish

brookie Credit: U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
brookie2 Courtesy Colorado Division of Wildlife

The “brookie” (Salvelinus fontinalis) can basically outbreed the other species of fish, helped by its fall spawning. They were introduced to Colorado in 1872, and are native to Canada and the Eastern U.S. Their body is dark, with red and white spots within bluish circles. The pectoral, pelvic and anal fins can be orange, with black and white edges.

Record: The record Brook caught in Colorado was in 1947, weighing 7 lbs, 10 oz. at Upper Cataract Lake.

Where to find them: North Platte River, Road Canyon Reservoir, East Delaney Butte Lake, S. Boulder Creek; almost all high-mountain lakes, streams, and beaver ponds