What Fish are in Wyoming?

Wyoming, known for its breathtaking landscapes and abundant wildlife, is a paradise for anglers and nature enthusiasts alike. With over 4,200 lakes and 27,000 miles of streams, the Cowboy State boasts an impressive variety of fish species, from native trout to introduced game fish. Understanding the different types of fish that call Wyoming home is essential for a successful and enjoyable fishing experience. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dive deep into the world of Wyoming’s fish, exploring their unique characteristics, preferred habitats, and the best spots to catch them. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or a curious beginner, this article will provide you with the knowledge and insights needed to make the most of your Wyoming fishing adventure.

Native Trout Species

Cutthroat Trout

Wyoming is home to four subspecies of cutthroat trout: Yellowstone, Snake River, Bonneville, and Colorado River cutthroat. These native fish are prized by anglers for their stunning colors and fighting spirit. The Yellowstone cutthroat, named after the iconic national park, is the most widespread native trout in Wyoming. With their distinct red slash beneath the jaw, these fish prefer cold, clear streams and rivers, making them a favorite among fly fishing enthusiasts.

Cutthroat Trout
Cutthroat Trout

The Snake River cutthroat, found in the western part of the state, is known for its larger size and impressive spotting pattern. The Bonneville cutthroat, native to the Bear River drainage, is a rare treat for anglers lucky enough to catch one. Lastly, the Colorado River cutthroat, with its vibrant colors and feisty nature, can be found in the Green River and Little Snake River drainages.

To help protect and preserve these native trout populations, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has implemented the Cutt-Slam program. Anglers who catch all four subspecies of cutthroat trout in their native ranges can earn a special certificate and recognition for their efforts in conservation and responsible fishing.

Mountain Whitefish

While not technically a trout, the mountain whitefish is another native species found in many of Wyoming’s rivers and streams. These silvery fish, members of the salmon family, are often overlooked by anglers in favor of their more colorful trout cousins. However, mountain whitefish offer a unique challenge and delicious table fare for those willing to pursue them.

Mountain Whitefish
Mountain Whitefish

Typically found in deep pools of medium to large rivers, mountain whitefish can be caught using a variety of techniques, including fly fishing, spinning, and bait fishing. The Snake River, Green River, and the Bighorn River are all excellent destinations for targeting these native fish.

Non-Native Trout and Char

Rainbow Trout

Introduced to Wyoming waters in the late 1800s, rainbow trout have become one of the most popular game fish in the state. These colorful fish, named for the iridescent pink stripe along their sides, are known for their acrobatic leaps and powerful runs when hooked. Rainbows can be found in a wide range of habitats, from high mountain lakes to large reservoirs and rivers.

Rainbow Trout
Rainbow Trout

Some of the best places to target rainbow trout in Wyoming include the North Platte River, the Miracle Mile section of the North Platte, and the Green River below Flaming Gorge Dam. The Bighorn River, famous for its large, hard-fighting rainbows, is another top destination for anglers seeking a trophy catch.

Brown Trout

Brown trout, native to Europe, were introduced to Wyoming in the late 19th century. These wary and elusive fish have since adapted to a wide range of habitats, from small streams to large rivers and lakes. Known for their beautiful golden-brown coloring and large, black spots, brown trout are highly prized by anglers for their challenging nature and impressive size potential.

The North Platte River, particularly the Gray Reef section, is renowned for its large brown trout, with fish over 20 inches caught regularly. The Green River, Snake River, and the Bighorn River also offer excellent opportunities for targeting browns. When fishing for these cautious fish, stealthy approaches and precise presentations are key to success.

Brook Trout

While native to eastern North America, brook trout have been introduced to many of Wyoming’s cold, clear streams and beaver ponds. These stunning fish, with their olive-green backs, red spots, and white-tipped fins, are a favorite among anglers for their willingness to take a fly and their delicious taste.

Brook trout thrive in high-elevation streams and lakes, providing excellent fishing opportunities in remote, scenic areas of the state. The Bighorn Mountains, the Medicine Bow Mountains, and the Wind River Range are all prime destinations for brook trout enthusiasts.

Lake Trout

Lake trout, also known as mackinaw, are native to parts of Canada and the northern United States but have been introduced to some of Wyoming’s deeper lakes. These large, predatory fish require cold, well-oxygenated waters and can grow to impressive sizes, making them a prized catch for anglers seeking a trophy.

Flaming Gorge Reservoir, located in southwestern Wyoming, is famous for its large lake trout, with fish over 30 pounds caught each year. Jackson Lake, in Grand Teton National Park, is another excellent destination for targeting these deep-water giants. When fishing for lake trout, downriggers, jigging spoons, and large streamer flies are all effective techniques.

Other Game Fish

Walleye

Walleye, a popular game fish native to the Great Lakes region, have been introduced to several of Wyoming’s reservoirs. These tasty fish, known for their large, reflective eyes and sharp teeth, are prized by anglers for their fighting ability and excellent table fare.

Boysen Reservoir, Glendo Reservoir, and Keyhole Reservoir are all top destinations for walleye fishing in Wyoming. Low light conditions, such as dawn, dusk, and overcast days, are the best times to target these fish, as they are known for their light-sensitive eyes. Crankbaits, jigs, and live bait are all effective techniques for catching walleye.

Yellow Perch

Yellow perch, a popular panfish species, can be found in lakes, ponds, and slower-moving rivers throughout Wyoming. These small but feisty fish are known for their delicious, mild-tasting flesh and are often caught while fishing for trout or walleye.

Keyhole Reservoir, Boysen Reservoir, and Flaming Gorge Reservoir are all excellent destinations for targeting yellow perch. Small jigs, live bait, and small spinners are all effective techniques for catching these tasty fish.

Conclusion

Wyoming’s diverse array of fish species, from native cutthroat trout to introduced game fish like walleye and yellow perch, offers anglers an unparalleled fishing experience. With so many options available, anglers of all skill levels can enjoy the thrill of fishing in the state’s pristine waters, surrounded by stunning natural beauty.

By understanding the different species, their preferred habitats, and the best techniques for catching them, you can plan a successful and memorable fishing trip in the Cowboy State. Whether you’re chasing native cutthroat in a remote mountain stream or targeting trophy lake trout in a deep, clear reservoir, Wyoming’s fish will provide you with an unforgettable angling adventure.

So grab your gear, consult the regulations, and head out to explore the incredible fishing opportunities that Wyoming has to offer. With a little knowledge and a lot of enthusiasm, you’ll soon discover why Wyoming is a true paradise for anglers and nature lovers alike.

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