North America is graced with a wide variety of native salmonids, which include trout, salmon, char, grayling, and whitefish. This currently page contains pictures and information on species from four of the genuses of salmonids native to North America; Oncorhynchus (Pacific trout and salmon), Salmo (Atlantic trout and salmon); Salvelinus (Char) from the family Salmonidae and Thymallus (Grayling) from Thymallinae. It has been my goal to catch all of the North American species of trout, salmon and char and on this page I have photographs of those that I have caught so far. For more pictures and information on a specific species on this page click on the picture of the fish.
All Pacific salmon belong to the genus Oncorhynchus, which also includes several species of Pacific trout. In North America there are five species of native Pacific salmon: Chinook, Coho, Chum, Sockeye and Pink. There is also a sixth species of Pacific salmon called the Masu or cherry salmon which is only found in Asia. The five species Pacific salmon native to North America share several traits in common such as anadromy, semelparity, and homing behaviors. Anadromy is a behavior that is common in many salmonids and is a life history pattern where the fish are born in fresh water, then migrate to sea and return to fresh water to spawn again. These five species also exhibit semelparity, which is where the fish die after spawning. Homing describes a trait that is very common in Pacific salmon, where the mature adults return to the same stream in which they were born and sometimes even the same stretch of that stream.
Pacific salmon populations are currently depressed throughout much of their native range due to a slew of issues. Four major issues have presented the largest threat to these fish and are: over-harvest from commercial and recreational fishing; habitat destruction from logging, alterations to streams, and other issues; dams which block passage for salmon or cause death during downstream migration; and hatchery fish which compete with native salmon for food and also interbreed with native salmon leading to a loss of adaptations to the local environment. Currently there are many conversation efforts under way to protect the Pacific Salmon but many populations have already gone extinct and the future of these fish of much of their native range remains uncertain as some populations continue to decline.
Rainbow trout or Onchorhynchus mykiss is one of the Pacific trout that is native to western North America. Rainbow trout like Pacific salmon have the ability to migrate between fresh and salt water and home to their natal stream to spawn again. The anadromous form of rainbow trout is commonly called steelhead and has become a very popular game fish throughout the Pacific Northwest and other parts of the world where it has been introduced. Unlike Pacific salmon, all rainbow trout are iteroparous meaning that have the ability to spawn more than once. Rainbow trout are a relatively diverse species and have a number of subspecies including Coastal Rainbow trout, Columbia Basin Redband, Northern Great Basin Redband (there are several unique forms of these redbands), McCloud River Redband, Sheephaven Creek Redband, Eagle Lake Rainbow, California Golden Trout, Little Kern River Golden Trout, Kern River Rainbow Trout, and several Rainbow like trout in Mexico. In the northern great basins of Oregon, Nevada and California, there are seven unique populations of redband trout each native to a different internal basin; Harney-Malheur, Fort Rock, Upper Klamath Lake, Chewaucan, Goose Lake, Warner Lakes, and Catlow Basins. These fish are currently all identified as Oncorhynchus mykiss newberrii, but the classification of these unique trout is still a matter of debate. I have included these trout here as individual populations classified under Oncorhynchus mykiss newberrii. Anadromous redband and rainbow trout face the same threats as Pacific Salmon, but for non-anadromous redband and rainbow trout populations tend to be more threatened by the introduction of non-native trout. Hatchery strain rainbow trout tend to be the greatest threat to many of these subspecies because they have the ability to interbreed with them and produce hybrids, but non-native cutthroat, brook trout and brown trout have lead to the decline of many native rainbow trout populations. Due to the popularity of the rainbow trout, they have been stocked widely outside of their native range and can now be found across most of North America, and parts of Europe, South America, Asia, Africa, and Australia.
The Gila and Apache Trout are native to the headwaters of the Salt and Gila River drainages of Arizona and New Mexico. These trout are believed to be most closely associated with the rainbow trout lineage but are differentiated enough to earn the status a two subspecies of the species Oncorhynchus gilae. Both of these trout are well adapted to the unstable and seemingly inhospitable environment of the American Southwest, but have suffered tremendous declines since the arrival of Euro-Americans within their native range. The main cause of their decline has been the introduction of non-native trout within their native streams, especially rainbow trout which readily hybridize with both fish. It has only been in recent years that these rare trout have started to recover as years of restoration efforts have finally started to pay off.
The cutthroat trout or Oncorhynchus clarki is one of the species of Pacific trout that is native to western North America. Cutthroat trout get their name from markings found under their lower jaw that can be red, yellowish or orange colored and make it look as though their throat is bleeding. Like rainbow trout all cutthroat are iteroparous and the coastal cutthroat is also anadromous, although it tends to be more of a home body than the other anadromous members of the genus Oncorhynchus. Fishermen often consider the cutthroat to be too easy to catch when compared to other species of trout and they are generally misconstrued as poor fighters that will readily accept any offering. What truth is found in these opinions of the cutthroat's character is likely to be a result of the remote and rugged environment that these fish inhabit. The cutthroat trout is a diverse species which has four major lineages of that are believed to have diverged from each other about a million years ago. These four lines are considered major subspecies of cutthroat trout and included the Coastal Cutthroat, Westslope Cutthroat, Yellowstone Cutthroat and Lahontan Cutthroat. The Yellowstone Cutthroat and Lahontan in turn have also diverged into other subspecies leading to a total of 14 subspecies of cutthroat trout; four major and ten minor ones. The minor subspecies of the Yellowstone Cutthroat include the: Snake River Fine Spotted Cutthroat, Bonneville Cutthroat, Colorado River Cutthroat, Greenback Cutthroat, Yellowfin Cutthroat (extinct), and Rio Grande Cutthroat. The minor subspecies of the Lahontan Cutthroat are the: Humboldt Cutthroat, Whitehorse Basin Cutthroat, Alvord Cutthroat (thought to be extinct), and Paiute Cutthroat.
Like many other native salmonids, the cutthroat trout have not fared especially well across their native range with perhaps the largest threat to their existence being non-native trout. Fueled by the cutthroat's reputation as an unselective and poor fighting trout, other "more desirable" species of trout have long been stocked cutthroat waters. As it turns out the cutthroat's popular relative the rainbow trout has been the greatest threat to their existence although other non-native trout such as the brown trout and brook trout have also caused their share of problems. Brook and brown trout have a tendency to out-compete cutthroat where the fish occur together, as these two non-natives are fall spawners while cutthroat spawn in the spring. This leaves the cutthroat's offspring hard pressed to compete with the larger juvenile brook and brown that hatch several months earlier than cutthroat. While brook and brown trout are dangerous competitors to cutthroat, rainbow trout are a much greater threat due to their ability to interbreed with cutthroat. This has already left two subspecies of cutthroat; the Alvord and Yellowfin extinct and has brought a number of the other subspecies dangerously close to extinction. Today we are beginning to learn from our past mistakes and things are starting to improve for the cutthroat as they are being protected and re-introduced across their native range.
The genus Salmo is comprised of two species that are found in North America (one native and one introduced), as well as a number of other species and subspecies native to Europe, Africa and Asia. All of the fish of this genus are iteroparous (can spawn more than once). The two species from this genus that are found in North America are the native Atlantic salmon and non-native brown trout. The original distribution of Atlantic salmon in North America was form the Housatonic River in Connecticut to streams flowing into Ungava Bay in Canada. While the Pacific salmon a currently facing threats to their populations the Atlantic salmon populations are in much worst condition. Soon after European settlers began to colonize the east coast of the North American continent threats to Atlantic Salmon began to set in and today due to the same problems that are now affecting populations Pacific salmon, Atlantic salmon have gone extinct in most streams in the eastern United States and are threatened or extinct in many Canadian streams as well. While the European settlers brought with them the demise of the Atlantic salmon they also brought the brown trout, which is thriving in across North America today. This trout which is native to Europe, Northern Africa and Asia has become a popular game fish across the world.
Char or the fish or the genus Salvelinus very closely related to trout and salmon but differ in appearance. While trout and salmon have black spots on a light background color, char have light colored spots on a darker background color. In comparison to trout and salmon, char tend to be more of a cold water fish and have an optimum temperature range of between 50°F and 57°F. In North America there are five species of char: brook trout, lake trout, bull trout, Dolly Varden and Arctic char. Three of these species; Bull Trout, Dolly Varden, and Arctic Char overlap in certain parts of their range and are so similar in appearance that genetic testing often has to be done to tell them apart.
The fish of the genus Prosopium or whitefish and Thymallus or grayling are salmonids, but are much more distantly related to trout, salmon and char and are actually in separate families Thyamllinae and Coregoninae. In North America, there is only one native species of grayling Arctic grayling. There are three other species grayling as well found outside of North America, which include the: Mongolian grayling, European grayling, and Kosogol grayling. The fish of the family Coregoninae are much more prolific, with 30 species, although there are only six species of whitefish in the genus Prosopium.
Thymallus arcticus pallus
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