A 1991 study by Gary C. Barrett and Gary C. Matlock called “Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout In Texas” provides conclusive evidence this species of trout once dwelled in certain areas in western Texas.
Historic records provide evidence that Rio Grande cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki virginalis) were indigenous to some Texas streams. This information includes railroad survey reports and several accounts in a major sporting publication of the late 1800s, including a drawing with color description. Published accounts continued through the mid-1900s, after which man’s activities made these streams unsuitable for trout survival.
The study notes that because of the locations of the populations, the trout would have to have lived and reproduced in Texas, which would make them true natives.
These locations, including the Devil’s River, Lampia Creek, and San Felipe Creek, were spring-fed streams of relatively high flow before human settlement.
Rio Grande cutthroat are stunningly beautiful fish that currently live in New Mexico and southern Colorado.
While they no longer live in Texas, is it possible they could come back with concerted conservation efforts?
The species was part of a discussion on native stream species restoration at a Texas Parks & Wildlife Department hearing in 2014, and there is support for recovery among fly fishers who are aware of the species Texas past.
This story came about through a conversation about the Western Native Trout Initiative, which is a public-private Fish Habitat Partnership that works collaboratively across 12 western states to conserve (protect, restore, and recover) 21 native trout and char species.