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Greenback Cutthroat Trout

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1min 00sec
Courtesy Colorado Parks & Wildlife
A native greenback cutthroat trout collected during a population survey at Herman Gulch in 2018.
Greenback cutthroat trout

In Colorado's 6,000 miles of streams, the rainbow trout gets the glory, but the cutthroat trout is the true local.

Rainbows were introduced to the Gunnison River in the late 19th century. But the cutthroats, marked with a crimson slash under their jaws, were already here – descendants of Pacific salmon that ventured further and further inland more than 3 million years ago. The ones that got the furthest evolved into the greenback cutthroat trout. Believed extinct by 1937, small populations were later discovered not long after, and the greenback cutthroat trout officially became the state fish in 1994.

But in a case of mistaken identity, genetic testing found those fish were closely related but not true greenback cutthroats. A small number of the real thing were found in a stream on the southern slope of Pike’s Peak – stocked there by innkeeper more than a century earlier. Anglers will find them there today and in hatcheries around the state, making a comeback.

About Colorado Postcards

Colorado Postcards

Colorado Postcards are snapshots of our colorful state in sound. They give brief insights into our people and places, our flora and fauna, and our past and present, from every corner of Colorado.