SPEARFISH — Several Black Hills streams have a new species of fish for anglers to catch. But you better plan on fishing a lot to have shot of catching one.
Recently, during sampling, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks officials have found small, very small, numbers of Snake River cutthroat trout.
Jake Davis, area fisheries supervisor with the GF&P, said fisheries crews have encountered cutthroat trout in Spearfish, Whitewood and the north fork of Rapid creeks.
Exactly where the fish came from is not known.
“They aren’t stocked by the state of South Dakota,” Davis said. “There are cases where we have allowed a private individual to stock fish.”
Those people are required to be permitted by the state for each stocking in addition to a clean fish health report, Davis added.
So far this year, two stocking of cutthroat trout have been permitted in the state, both by the same hatchery.
Mike Clark owns Clark Trout Farm located near Newcastle, Wyo. Clark said he stocked Snake River cutthroat trout in the Deerfield Park subdivision area. This feeds into Deerfield Reservoir and eventually the north fork of Rapid Creek.
This might explain the limited population there. But what about Whitewood or Spearfish creeks?
Clark previously stocked a private pond near Mattson Lane, outside of Deadwood. Clark said a strong rainstorm washed out the dam of that pond as well as the fish. They may have ended up in Whitewood Creek.
And D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives has the same strain of cutthroat in its display ponds. Some may have escaped while cleaning screens.
Multiple fisheries personnel said fish at all hatcheries could escape in small numbers while workers remove screens for cleaning.
Or, the trout may have been stocked illegally, similarly to lake trout in Yellowstone National Park.
Stocking fish without a permit is a Class 2 misdemeanor, Davis said, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a $500 fine.
“We want to make sure they have a clean bill of health,” Davis said of the permit requirement. “We want to know what species of fish is coming into the state and what species are being stocked where.”
The Black Hills has no native trout, but currently there are rainbow, brown, brook, and now cutthroat trout in area creeks.
Davis said cutthroat trout do not compete well with the other trout species.
“They’ll provide some opportunity (for anglers), but as far as establishing a population or impacting other trout populations, that is very minimal.”
According to the Wyoming Game and Fish department, “the Snake River cutthroat trout is also called the finespotted cutthroat. The native distribution is the Snake River. It is most sought after in the Jackson area by anglers, but is the most widely stocked subspecies outside of its native range. The Snake River cutthroat is the most widely adaptable subspecies of cutthroat trout.
“The Snake River cutthroat prefer large rivers, but is widely adaptable to streams and lakes. Cutthroat are spring spawners. The principal food of the cutthroat is plankton and aquatic insects in lakes, and aquatic insects in streams. Cutthroat over twelve inches, especially Snake River cutthroat, often feed on small fish and crayfish.”
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