The pinnacle of cutthroat trout fishing is a whopping 41 lb 0 oz. monster, a record held by John Skimmerhorn. This legendary catch was made using conventional tackle on the 01-Dec-1925 in Pyramid Lake, Nevada, USA.
Pyramid Lake, a hotspot for world record cutthroats, is the place of choice for anglers aiming to reel in a sizable cutthroat trout.
The Tale Behind The Current World Record Cutthroat Trout
The current world record cutthroat trout, caught nearly a century ago, is shrouded in mystery. Little is known about the circstances surrounding Skimmerhorn’s impressive catch in 1925 in Pyramid Lake.
We do know that Skimmerhorn used conventional tackle, not fly fishing. As for the lures or bait used, they remain a mystery.
However, there is an intriguing story about the giant cutthroat trout found in Pyramid Lake, Nevada today. But first, let’s delve into some information about this unique trout species.
About Cutthroat Trout
Cutthroat trout belong to the Salmonidae family, and are close relatives to rainbow trout. The name “cutthroat” comes from the vibrant yellow, red, or orange streak found on their lower jaw.
Often referred to as yellowstone cutthroat trout, Clark’s trout, or red throated trout, these fish are native to the rivers, streams, and lakes of western North America. They have been transported across the globe and are now found in places as diverse as Quebec and numerous states in the U.S.
There are several subspecies of cutthroat trout, but the two that grow the largest are the anadromous cutthroat trout and the lahontan cutthroat trout. It’s the lahontan cutthroat trout that you’ll find in Pyramid Lake. But these fish have had a turbulent history.
The Tale Of The World Record Lahontan Cutthroat Trout
Lahontan cutthroat trout originated in the streams and tributaries of Lake Lahontan, an ancient ice lake that included Pyramid Lake and Lake Tahoe, as well as the Truckee, Humboldt, Carson, Walker, and Quinn Rivers.
Before World War II, overfishing led to a drastic decline in lahontan cutthroat populations. The particular lahontan cutthroat trout in Pyramid Lake were declared extinct after their spawning habitat, the Truckee river, was dammed, preventing the lahontan cutthroat trout from reproducing.
Introducing non-native rainbow trout, lake trout, and brook trout to Lahontan habitats also contributed to the trout’s extinction. But human intervention brought a hopeful twist to the Lahontan cutthroat trout’s tale.
The Lahontan Cutthroat’s Reintroduction
The first attempt to reintroduce this subspecies of cutthroat trout dates back to the 1970s. The Paiute Tribe began stocking Pyramid Lake with Summit Lake strain Lahontans. However, these particular lahontan cutthroat trout didn’t grow as large. But a game-changing discovery was just around the corner.
In the late 1970s, two Paiute brothers found pools of Pyramid lake cutthroat trout along the cliffs around the Truckee river system, near the Nevada-Utah border. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and tribal fisheries biologists confirmed the existence of small populations of the previously thought extinct Pyramid strain lahontan cutthroat trout. The first eggs were harvested and then in 2006, the Lahontan National Fish Hatchery began restocking Pyramid Lake Strain.
Since the restocking of Pyramid Lake by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Lahontan cutthroat trout have flourished. Anglers have caught large specimens, a testament to the program’s success.
How Many World Record Cutthroats Have Come From Pyramid Lake?
Given that Lahontan cutthroats are the largest subspecies of cutthroat trout on the planet, it’s no surprise that most of the world records have been caught there.
Of the thirty-one records held for cutthroat trout, twenty-eight were caught in Pyramid Lake, most of them between 2014 and 2022. All these fish weighed over 5 lbs, with an average weight of 10-15 lbs.
Where Else Have Record Cutthroat Trout Been Caught?
Salmon Region, Idaho, USA
Huan Zhou bagged the women’s 2 lb line class world record for cutthroat trout in the Salmon Region of Idaho on the 21-Jul-2020. This fish, unlike most of the other records, was not a Lahontan cutthroat, hence its lower weight of just 3 lbs. A 3lb cutthroat trout is considered a big catch outside of the lake systems where they grow to larger sizes.
Lochsa River, Enterprise, Idaho, USA
The women’s 2 lb tippet class world record for cutthroat trout on fly was also caught in Idaho, specifically on the Lochsa River. This record is held by angler Emily Branigan for a 1 lb 6 oz catch, the smallest record cutthroat trout in the directory. Idaho’s rivers seem to be a promising destination for those planning a trout fishing trip.
Thayne, Wyoming, USA
The women’s 6 lb tippet class world record for cutthroat trout on fly was caught in Thayne, Wyoming. Hadley Jane Dickinson landed a 10 lb 8 oz cutthroat while fly fishing. This is a remarkable catch for a trout that wasn’t caught in Pyramid Lake. So, if you’re planning a trout fishing trip in Wyoming, you could be the next one to catch a world record
What is the biggest cutthroat trout ever caught?
The biggest cutthroat trout ever caught was a 41-pound, 8-ounce fish that was caught in Pyramid Lake in Nevada in 1925.
What happened to the Lahontan cutthroat trout in Pyramid Lake?
The Lahontan cutthroat trout population in Pyramid Lake, Nevada, has been significantly reduced due to overfishing, habitat degradation, and competition from non-native species. The Nevada Department of Wildlife is currently conducting research and management efforts to restore the Lahontan cutthroat trout population in Pyramid Lake.
What is the biggest cutthroat trout caught in America?
The biggest cutthroat trout caught in America was a 41-pound, 8-ounce fish that was caught in Pyramid Lake in Nevada in 1925.
How Do I Catch The Giant Cuttys In Pyramid Lake?
Now that you know where the world record cutthroats reside, you’re probably curious about how to catch them.
Fishing Pyramid Lake successfully begins with understanding the weather. Cloudy and windy conditions might not be ideal for a day out on most lakes, but for Pyramid Lake, it’s a different story. When the wind churns up the water, it stirs up food from the bottom, attracting trout. Cloud cover is also beneficial, as trout, lacking eyelids, dive deeper when the sun is shining directly.
A unique Pyramid Lake fishing tactic involves a step ladder. This tool enables you to wade into much deeper parts of the lake and keeps you out of the chilly water.
What Flies Work Well On Pyramid Lake?
You’ll need three types of flies for this lake: streamers, beetles, and midges. The double-digit trout in this lake feast on everything from small fish to leeches and insects.
A woolly bugger, especially the Midnight Cowboy in size 2-6, is a great starting point for a streamer. Pair this fly with a popcorn beetle, and you’ve got a winning combination.
You’ll also need midge flies in sizes 16 to 6, with a plentiful supply in size 12. Make sure your midges are flashy, as the trout in the lake are attracted to shiny things.
What Gear Will I Need On Pyramid Lake?
A 7 weight fly rod is your best bet, as the fish here are big! Carry a floating line for fishing midges and a sinktip fly line for the big streamers. This will help get your flies down to the depths where the big fish are waiting.
In conclusion, catching a world record cutthroat trout is not only an angler’s dream but also a testament to the successful conservation efforts to save the Lahontan cutthroat trout. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or a novice, the thrill of reeling in a record-breaking catch in places like Pyramid Lake is an adventure worth pursuing.
As we wrap up, we’d like to invite you to download our series of fly fishing books. They’re packed with tips, tricks, and insider knowledge to help you hone your skills and maybe even catch a world record cutthroat trout of your own!