New Mexico Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout
One of two native species of Trout in New Mexico, the New Mexico cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki virginalis) became official state fish in 1955. Also known as the Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout, as one of fourteen subspecies of trout found in the Western United States, it is found in the tributaries of Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado streams. It was first discovered in 1541 by the party of the Spanish Conquistador Francisco de Coronado, who recorded finding the trout in the Pecos River near Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Distinctively red-orange colored along their jawline, they are brightly brass colored with patterns of green and bronze toned on their backs with sparse spotting patterns. Most of the original habitat has been lost with less than ten percent still occupied, with most being found in the streams in the higher elevations. Climate change and all the joys that come with it will cause further destruction. However, the RGCT is not an endangered species.
RGCT occupy high-elevation headwater streams and lakes throughout southern Colorado and New Mexico. Due to the small waterbodies they inhabit, RGCT do not usually attain large sizes with mature fish generally reaching a maximum length of 10-12 inches. Fish mature at ages 3-5 and typically spawn in late May to early June during times of receding snowmelt runoff. They are generalist feeders, eating a variety of aquatic and terrestrial insects as well as the occasional fish. Like most trout species, RGCT require clean, cold water, ample riparian cover, and diverse in-stream cover to survive.