What's on Your Line? - Transcript
Yellowstone’s waters are alive with a variety of native and non-native fish – and fishing can be a great way to enjoy the park. Fishing regulations and catch limits vary depending on the fish species, so anglers should know how to quickly tell Yellowstone’s different fish apart. Here’s how you can figure out what might be on the end of your line:
Yellowstone is home to five kinds of trout. The cutthroat trout is the only native trout in the region, and is the only fish with a red slash beneath its jaw – hence the name “cutthroat.” Like all other native fish, cutthroat trout are catch and release only. If it has a red slash, it is a cutthroat trout and should be returned to the water right away.
Rainbow trout may look similar but they do not have a red slash. Rainbow trout also have numerous spots on the head, whereas cutthroat trout have very few. Rainbows also often have white on the edge of the fins, while cutthroat trout never do. There are some rainbow-cutthroat hybrids in the park. When in doubt, you should treat the fish like a native species and return it to the water.
Brown trout are another non-native trout in Yellowstone. They can be identified by the pale haloes that encircle black spots on the body of the fish.
Brook trout, another non-native trout, can most easily be identified by the worm-like markings on their body. They are an overall darker color than other trout and have light spots, including some red spots. They also have a light and dark edge on their fins.
The largest trout in Yellowstone is the non-native lake trout. Lake trout have a more deeply forked tail than other trout and are darker in color with white spots. Like the rainbow trout, they have numerous spots on their head and often have a white edge on their fins. Lake trout prey voraciously on native cutthroat trout. For this reason, the National Park Service is trying to reduce Lake trout numbers in Yellowstone Lake. If you catch a Lake trout there, you must kill it and may not return it to the lake alive.
Trout are not the only fish in Yellowstone’s waters. Two rare and beautiful fish, the Fluvial Arctic Grayling and the Mountain Whitefish, also call this place home. Grayling are most easily identified by their large, sail-like dorsal fin. They also have dark spots on the front half of the body. Mountain whitefish can be identified by their lack of spots, their very round body shape and their small mouths with no teeth. Fluvial Arctic Grayling and Mountain Whitefish, like the cutthroat trout, are native fish and are catch-and-release only.
To learn more about where in the park you are more likely to encounter certain fish species, pick up a copy of Yellowstone’s fishing regulations at any of park’s visitor centers or download it from the park’s website.
This guide also contains information about the required park fishing permit and catch limits for fish. It also contains instructions on how to handle fish you release back into the water so they have a better chance of survival.
The National Park Service sets fishing regulations in order to protect Yellowstone’s fish and to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy fishing in the park. You can help by learning fishing regulations and by carefully handling all fish that you release back into the water. Together, we can make sure Yellowstone’s waters continue to thrive today – and into the future.