Lahontan Cutthroat Trout

Oncorhynchus clarkii henshawi

Distribution and Habitat

Lahontan cutthroat trout inhabit a wide range of habitats from cold, high-elevation mountain streams in California to lower-elevation and highly alkaline desert lakes in Nevada. They once occupied a vast range east of the Sierra Nevada but have been extirpated from nearly 95 percent of their native habitat in California. Their range extends from the Sierra Nevada crest in California northeast into Nevada, including a small portion in Oregon.

In California, the historic range of Lahontan cutthroat trout includes Lake Tahoe and the Carson, Truckee, and Walker river basins. Reports from settlers in 1853 assert Lahontan cutthroat trout were abundant in the Susan River as well.

Introduction of non-native trout into the four primary watersheds that comprise their native range in California, along with extensive habitat alteration from human land use activities, caused their extirpation from most of their former range. Most self-sustaining populations are located in isolated headwater streams and are the result of reintroduction efforts. State fish hatcheries have been increasing their production and stocking of Lahontan cutthroat trout to expand fishing opportunities for this species in accessible waters within their native drainage.


Abundance and distribution shrank rapidly in the face of extensive landscape changes associated with development, mining, timber harvest, road and railroad building, dams and diversions, pollution, non-native fish introductions, and commercial harvest.

In the mid-1800s, the “silver rush” of the Comstock Lode further impacted this subspecies. It is well documented they were harvested heavily in the late 1800s and shipped by rail to mining camps, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, and other locations.

Conservation and Management

Numerous restoration and recovery projects were implemented in recent decades and coordinated efforts are ongoing, involving government agencies, universities, and non-profit organizations to benefit the subspecies. Heenan Lake, a designated Heritage and Wild Trout Water, maintains the state’s broodstock to assist with conservation and recovery efforts.

Species Status

Lahontan cutthroat trout are a threatened species under the Federal Endangered Species Act. In 1970, they were listed as Endangered under the Federal Endangered Species Act, but in 1975, the listing was downgraded to Threatened to allow for more flexible management.