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  • Writer's pictureJenna Granger

Color & Learn: Lahontan Cutthroat Trout

Updated: Feb 17, 2021

Learn about the Tahoe’s only native trout while coloring.

Grade Level:

  • K-12


Life Science:

  • Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning & Resilience

  • Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems

  • Biodiversity & Humans

Earth Science

  • Human Impacts on Earth’s Systems

  • Natural Resources

Tools & Materials

To Do & Notice

1. Question: Why is Lake Tahoe’s only native trout (Lahontan Cutthroat Trout) threatened?

2. Make a Claim:

In your notebook answer these questions:

  • What affects the LCT’s habitat?

  • What predators do LCT have?

  • How might climate change affect LCT survival?

  • Have humans played a part in decreasing this fish’s population? If yes, how?

  • Have humans helped these fish survive? How?

3. Exploration:

  • Use the image here to help guide your scientific coloring and learn more about the coloration of LCT. You can also go here to see photos and videos of LCT for inspiration.

4. Analyze & Interpret Data:

  • Explore these questions in your notebook:

  • What did you learn about the LCT?

  • What do you think we can do to help these fish survive?

5. Communicate Findings:

  • Share your art with SWEP by sending us a photo of your coloring page. Post your photos on social media and tag us @sweptahoe on Instagram and/or to @swep4 on Facebook. Be sure to hashtag and follow #SWEPsnippets. If you cannot post directly yourself, send your photos or video to SWEP (

What’s Going On

Facts about the Lahontan cutthroat trout:

  • The Lahontan cutthroat trout is the largest of the cutthroat species

  • Nevada’s state fish

  • LCT typically have olive green backs with reddish or silvery sides. The color depends on whether they are stream or lake dwelling

  • Yellow to red slash marks below their mouths give them their name

  • They are native to the Lahontan basin of northern Nevada, northeastern California, and southeastern Oregon.

  • LCT have lived in this area for over 10,000 years

  • The largest LCT recorded was 41 pounds!

  • LCT are adapted to survive in unique environments. They are highly tolerant of alkaline waters, high stream temperatures, and low dissolved oxygen that has allowed them to flourish in harsh, arid environments.

  • Healthy streams are important for LCT as this is where they spawn in April through July

  • They feed primarily on terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates, leeches, and small fish as they grow larger

What is threatening the LCT?

  • Dams and diversion structures

  • Habitat loss and damage. Much of this occurred during the 1800 when mining was widespread, roads and railroads built and timber was harvested on a large scale.

  • The introduction of non-native trout species like brook, lake and rainbow trout.

  • Overfishing. During the silver rush of the 1800s, in our local region, LCT were caught and exported to mining camps as far as San Francisco and Salt Lake City.

  • Despite being listed as threatened it is still legal to fish the LCT in California, Nevada and Oregon. Locally fishing for LCT is allowed in the Truckee River and in Pyramid Lake.

  • Self-sustaining native populations remain in less than one percent of its historic lake habitat.

  • 5% of traditional habitat is currently occupied by LCT

What is being done to help these fish survive?

  • Reducing/eradicating non-native fishes

  • Reconnecting and expanding populations

  • Increasing stream flow

  • Improving river, stream and riparian habitat and function

  • Managing recreational fishing for native fish

  • Implementing genetic and population monitoring

  • Fish hatcheries. LCTs are raised in State, Tribal and Federal fish hatcheries to promote the species as well as to support fishing.

How can we help these fish survive?

  • Become an advocate for Lahontan cutthroat trout:

    • Use your voice: Talk about why these fish are important with your friends, family & community members.

    • Use your art: Share your coloring page or other artwork with your friends, family & community members and let them know about the LCT and what is threatening them.

  • Attend future river restoration days like Truckee River Day that help to restore streams and rivers that support healthy breeding for LCT.


  • Watch these fish moving upstream to spawn in this short video.

  • This US Fish and Wildlife video talks about their conservation efforts and how fishing LCT supports the Paiute Tribe at Pyramid Lake.

Going Further

  • Visit the US Fish & Wildlife’s Lahontan National Fish Hatchery Complex in Gardnerville, NV. Visit their website for current information on opening status..

  • Vist the UC Davis Eriksson Building/Historic Fish Hatchery in Tahoe City, CA. Visit their website for current information on opening status. Watch this video to learn more about how and why fish were once raised at this historic site.

Thank you to our many partners for supporting student's science, sustainability and outdoor learning experiences.

Please review SWEP's Terms of Use prior to using this resource.

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