New Mexico State Fish

Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout

New Mexico State Fish - Rio Grande Cuttthroat Trout

(Oncorhynchus clarki virginalis)

Adopted on March 28, 1955

The Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout, (Oncorhynchus clarki virginalis,) is officially the New Mexico State Fish. It is native to the cold mountain streams and lakes of northern New Mexico. It was adopted as the state fish in 1955. Though not indicated specifically, it's generally accepted that the intention of the legislation was to name the Rio Grande cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki virginalis) the official state fish.

New Mexico State Fish : Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout

New Mexico State Fish - Rio Grande Cuttthroat Trout

The Rio Grande cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki virginalis), a member of the family Salmonidae, is found in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado in tributaries of the Rio Grande.

It is one of 14 subspecies of cutthroat trout native to the western United States, and is the state fish of New Mexico.

It is dark olive color with sparsely scattered black spots. It derives its name from the bright red markings under its throat. While it is normally grows to only 6 to 8 inches in length, anglers like the fish for its fighting spirit.

Rio Grande cutthroat trout have a yellowish-green to gray-brown body with scattered black spots. They have a densely spotted tail.

The Rio Grande cutthroat trout is one of two native species of trout found in New Mexico (The other native New Mexico trout specie we have is the Gila Trout which is only found in southern part of the state). Genetically pure populations of this rare native trout still exist in several streams in northern New Mexico. Hybridization with introduced rainbow trout in the wild has created a new sub-species known as a cuttbow. This interbreeding has severely impacted most wild populations of the Rio Grande cutthroat. Presently, most populations of pure strains are restricted to small isolated headwater streams. Rio Grande cutthroats currently live on 150 miles of stream in the Santa Fe National Forest, which is only 15% of their historical range. According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 13 core populations remain in the wild. These are the key to the survival of the species. Four of the 13 core populations are located in the Santa Fe National Forest. The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, with assistance from Trout Unlimited and New Mexico Trout, is actively reclaiming streams and restocking them with Rio Grande cutthroats.

Characteristics of the Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout

The Rio Grande cutthroat trout is a subspecies of the cutthroat trout and shares the characteristic red or orange slash mark under the lower jaw that has given the species its name. The fish can be identified by a unique pattern of black spots on its sides and tail, with concentrations of the spots toward the tail. Other cutthroat trout have black spots more evenly distributed on their bodies.

Length: Up to 10 inches
Weight: Up to 1 pounds
Life span: Up to 8 years


The Rio Grande cutthroat, one of New Mexico's two native trout, is found primarily in small headwater streams of the Rio Grande, Pecos River, and Canadian River drainages in northern New Mexico, and the Rio Grande drainage in Colorado

Feeding Behavior:

Rio Grande cutthroat trout feed on insects, zooplankton, and crustaceans.

Reproductive Behavior (Spawning):

When: Spring or summer
Preferred Water Temperature: 48-52? F
How: The female lays between 200 to 4,500 eggs on a gravel nest in flowing water where high levels of dissolved oxygen exist.

Did You Know:

The Rio Grande cutthroat trout is the southernmost species of cutthroats.

The introduction of the rainbow trout led a decline in the populations of Rio Grande cutthroat trout, combined with early logging, grazing, and hunting practices.

While Montana, Idaho and Wyoming simply adopted the "cutthroat trout" as their state fish, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and New Mexico adopted particular subspecies.

Common Names

Native Trout, Cut, Red Throat, Mountain Trout, Black-spotted Trout


The cutthroat trout, (Salmo clarki,) has 15 recognized subspecies. There are 5 subspecies of cutthroat trout in Idaho: westslope, Yellowstone, Bonneville, Bear Lake, Snake River finespotted.

New Mexico Law

The law designating the New Mexico cutthroat trout as the official New Mexico state fish is Section 12-3-4D of the New Mexico Statutes, Chapter 12 (Miscellaneous Public Affairs Matters) Article 3 (State Seal, Song and Symbols) Section 12-3-4.D

CHAPTER 12 - Miscellaneous Public Affairs Matters.
ARTICLE 3 - State Seal, Song and Symbols.
SECTION 12-3-4.

12-3-4. State flower; state bird; state tree; state fish; state animal; state vegetables; state gem; state grass; state fossil; state cookie; state insect; state question; state nickname; state butterfly; state reptile; state amphibian.

A. The yucca flower is adopted as the official flower of New Mexico.
B. The chaparral bird, commonly called roadrunner, is adopted as the official bird of New Mexico.
C. The nut pine or pinon tree, scientifically known as Pinus edulis, is adopted as the official tree of New Mexico.
D. The native New Mexico cutthroat trout is adopted as the official fish of New Mexico.
E. The native New Mexico black bear is adopted as the official animal of New Mexico.
F. The chile, the Spanish adaptation of the chilli, and the pinto bean, commonly known as the frijol, are adopted as the official vegetables of New Mexico.
G. The turquoise is adopted as the official gem of New Mexico.
H. The blue grama grass, scientifically known as Bouteloua gracillis, is adopted as the official grass of New Mexico.
I. The coelophysis is adopted as the official fossil of New Mexico.
J. The bizcochito is adopted as the official cookie of New Mexico.
K. The tarantula hawk wasp, scientifically known as Pepsis formosa, is adopted as the official insect of New Mexico.
L. "Red or green?" is adopted as the official question of New Mexico.
M. "The Land of Enchantment" is adopted as the official nickname of New Mexico.
N. The Sandia hairstreak is adopted as the official butterfly of New Mexico.
O. The New Mexico whiptail lizard, scientifically known as Cnemidophorus neomexicanus, is adopted as the official reptile of New Mexico.
P. The New Mexico spadefoot toad, scientifically known as Spea multiplicata, is adopted as the official amphibian of New Mexico.

Taxonomic Hierarchy of the Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout

Kingdom Animalia - animals
Phylum Chordata
Class Osteichthyes
Order Salmoniformes
Family Salmonidae
Genus Oncorhynchus
Species Oncorhynchus clarki virginalis

State Fishes
State Fish