U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
A Lahontan cutthroat trout. The species, thought to be extinct, seems to have been successfully reestablished in Pyramid Lake, Nevada, on the Paiute Reservation.

Lahontan Cutthroat Trout Is Back From Near-Extinction, to Delight of Paiutes


Much has been made recently of various proposals to bring back extinct species, mostly dinosaurs.

Now a fish thought to have been extinct has made such a resurgence that it is now being caught again, The New York Times reports.

The Lahontan cutthroat trout is “a remnant of a strain that is possibly the largest native trout in North America,” The New York Times said in an April 23 story. Treasured by the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, it was once thought to be extinct—until a 20-pounder was caught last year. It marked the possible fruition of “an intense and improbable federal and tribal effort to restore it to its home waters,” The New York Times said.

Pyramid Lake, on the Paiute reservation, is where this speckled trout resides. They are Nevada’s state fish and have deep spiritual meaning for the Paiute, as well. Declared extinct after overfishing, pollution and damming did them in, they were thought lost forever until the 1970s, when fish resembling the supposedly extinct species were found in a creek near Pyramid Lake, The Times reported. It turned out that a Utah man had stocked the stream with the endangered trout in the early 1900s without telling anyone. Subsequent genetic analysis proved that they were indeed an identical DNA match, The Times said.

Now, the fish are showing up at 20 pounds or more, and the Paiute, along with many others, are hopeful of a full comeback. Besides the association with culture and heritage, a return could help mitigate a 44 percent unemployment rate on the reservation by helping generate more revenue from the lake, which according to the Paiute website is the hub of the tribal economy. 

“Our fish have deep meaning for us, spiritually,” said Albert John, executive director of fisheries for the tribe, to The New York Times. “And if they could get to 40 pounds again, whoa, that’d be awesome.”

Read: 20 Pounds? Not Too Bad, for an Extinct Fish

Read about the reintroduction of other endangered trout species: 

Formerly Endangered Trout Reintroduced to Southwestern Rivers

Reintroduced Gila Trout Besieged by New Mexico Wildfires, Being Relocated

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Cheryl MacKenzie's picture
Cheryl MacKenzie
Submitted by Cheryl MacKenzie on
I remember reading about a 'crazy old guy' who actually mule packed buckets of fingerlings up the mountain to release in the lake. Who knew he would be saving an entire species, and providing a living for the local town folks? Hooray for crazy old guys.