Sea-run Cutthroat are also called Harvest Trout, Coastal Cutthroat, and Bluebacks. They are a unique strain
of cutthroat trout. They migrate out to saltwater on the Pacific Coastline of the Northwest to feed. They are
one of the favorite fish of coastal fly anglers.
Sea-run Cutthroat are born in the headwaters and uppermost watersheds of rivers and streams. They are
often found in the same streams that steelhead and salmon spawn in. After the cutthroat hatch, they usually
spend between one and two years in freshwater, feeding on aquatic insects, terrestrial insects, minnows and
small baitfish such as sculpin.
After the cutthroat move downstream to the sea, they don't move far from the mouth of the rivers and streams
venturing far offshore like steelhead and salmon. They remain in the nearby general area of the mouths of the
streams they were born in.
While at sea, the cutthroat spend a year or two eating crustaceans, shrimp, and other small ocean dwelling
prey. Sea-run cutthroat tend to feed in the tidal areas, feeding when the current makes it easiest for them to
catch their prey. They tend to hide around obstructions such as rocks, kelp and other items that provide cover
where they can hide and attack they prey.
Fishing for sea-run cutthroat in the ocean, bays and sounds is mostly done by anglers using conventional
tackle. Fly anglers can catch coastal cutthroat from the saltwater habitat, especially when using sink-tip and
sinking fly lines. Flies that imitate small shrimp, crabs and small baitfish work best for this.
Sea-run cutthroat start their migration back into the streams in the early Fall. It usually takes a few months for
them to get to their spawning areas far upstream. Most of them spawn in the winter and early spring months.
Once they depart the sea, the sea-run cutthroat trout will generally come into the river after the first major
salmon run. They can remain in the tidal waters for a few days, moving in and out with the tides. As soon as
they enter the rivers, they must revert mostly to feeding on aquatic insects. They will eat small minnows and
baitfish but in most cases, they revert back to eating mayfly and stonefly nymphs and caddisfly and midge
larvae. The will also eat terrestrial insects such as hoppers, ants and beetles.
Coastal cutthroat can be caught fairly easily on the fly once they move back up in the rivers and creeks. They
will tend to hold near cover such as tree tops in the streams, logs, rock outcroppings and other objects that
provide cover. Remember, the sea-run cutthroat don't stay in any one area for a long period of time. They
change their location frequently. You should do the same thing until you find them.
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