World's biggest SRC

Sitting on the banks of a favorite Coast Range stream this past week, rigging my weaponry and watching a handful of enormous but very dark salmon (they might have been summer run steelhead not sure) I started thinking about my beloved sea run cutthroat and the very nature of our sport. It has long been asked: Why don't SRC grow to the size of other anadromous salmonoids such as their distant cousins the salmon and steelhead? All the answers I have received over the years make sense. Yet the question still nags at me.

Size really doesn't matter here. I would fish beaches and estuaries and coastal streams for SRC even if the largest they got were 8 inches. I have travelled from SE Alaska to B.C. to Puget Sound to my home waters in Coastal Oregon in search of these fish. And I can attest to landing a number of truly stunning specimens. My interest in them, since my first one on the Oyster River on Vancouver Island at age 14 has never lost its kid-like electricity every time I land one. But the questions alway remain. How big do these things truly get?

When I got home I jumped on the computer and decided to check out the IGFA website and see what I could see. As has been discussed on this forum in the past the IGFA basically pools all cutthroat trout together into one category and they have a single winner in size: a beast pulled out of Pyramid Lake, obviously. But when I read further a single blurb caught my eye:

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This was the first time in my life I saw the term "17 lbs" used in the same sentence as "coastal anadromous cutthroat" aka SRC. I would be a lier if I told you this didn't send a shiver down my back and a certain area of my anatomy to tingle for several long mysterious minutes afterward.

Does anyone have any stories, anecdotes, inside scoops or non-sequiturs they would like to share about truly massive, truly illusive SRC? Does the above blurb hold any sort of merit? I would think that a site like IGFA would be reputable and peer-reviewed for accuracy of content but maybe that is not the case.

Simply put: Where do you think the world's largest SRC live? How big are they exactly? And perhaps more importantly do they actually exist?



Wild Trout forever
Smalma and some of the others will get the straight answers on here I am sure. The 17 pounders and other large fish are fish that have spent time in a lake-Lacustrine, and then run up a river or creek to spawn.
They are Coastal Cutthroat, but not truly ocean-going fish.
Lake Crescent and it's former ocean-running fish before a landslide made them Lacustrine, are up to that high teen size, Lake Washington fish that choose to stay in the big lake and eat and get up to that 17 pound size as well.

It is puzzling why SRC do not go out like salmon and steelhead and get the size. Must be a working niche they found to fit as we find in Puget Sound etc.. Much better to have higher number of individual fish in a population, than a smaller number of larger fish.

Waiting to see what the experts on here say.

Pyramid fish have there own inland ocean-type of food source (Qui-ui, and Sacramento Perch) and since the old strain (Pilot Peak) have been reintroduced in the past decade, the fish are now getting larger and nearing 30 pounds.

One thing about being smaller than Salmon or Steelhead, SRC can slip through the nets in the rivers.... survivability goes way up.
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Triploid, Humpy & Seaplane Hater
I agree that the largest coastal cutthroat likely spent most of their lives in lakes and may have never hit the salt.
Years ago when Maple Grove resort was still operating on Lake Sutherland, you could see the wood cut outs they did of the big cutts that came from the lake.
At one time I believe the state record of 12 lbs or so came from there.

Here in the Seattle area, we have two lakes that have the potential of producing world class cutthroat fishing. That would be lakes Washington and Sammamish.
As long as the state continues to allow the current harvest levels, it will never happen.
Guys post pictures of 18-20" and call them "hogs". Sorry, they could possibly be hogs if they weren't harvesting multiple fish every day, some times for multiple days in a row.

This is a true Lake Washington coastal cutthroat hog. If I remember correctly, this fish weighed 14 lbs.



Wild Trout forever
I will add, the biggest Coastal Cutthroat I have seen came from a local fisherman known for catching many, and huge fish, mainly Steelhead. He was a local phenom, just seemed to have it. This was 35 years ago maybe. He also kept a lot of fish, and on occasion I saw him at a local gas station and he had fish on him.
Once, he had his normal stringer of 12-15 inchers, and one HUGE Cutthroat. It was big, my guess was 6 pounds. Crazy big.

He claimed-and no reason to question otherwise, he caught the fish nightfishing a well known stream that does produce some big trout. Since we had no lakes that produced big Coastals, the only other option is a beaverpond lunker. I think this was just a big SRC, or maybe a resident cannibal trout.

Quite a fish
Behnke writes that the Crescenti Cutts out of Crescent Lake are consistently the biggest coastals. And as far as sea runs and size, I have always hypothesized that they are sized and limited in size to fill the niche that they do, namely small streams and shallow tidal water. But hey, even the ones out of the larger rivers are the same size.


Triploid, Humpy & Seaplane Hater
The state record for a sea run cutthroat is six pounds, caught in 1943. It doesn't seem like there are any fish even half that size any more. What happened to them?
I honestly think there are still some around that size. I know others don't believe that.
I think they are pretty rare and with the no harvest rules in the salt, we'll just have to base it on pictures. If I recall correctly, a board member posted a picture on here recently of a very large src.

When I was a kid and before I fly fished, we used to troll for searuns with small firecracker herring. This was quite common back then but I don't think many folks fish searuns from boats anymore with gear. I'm sure a few old timers still do though.
Our rule was to always troll where we could see barely see bottom off the both sides of the boat. The largest cutt we got doing this was 23".
I wonder if those larger fish might not inhabit a bit deeper zone then what most anglers target.

My best friends dad who is now deceased told me he caught a searun that he estimated a 8 lbs from a creek he was fishing. He thought for sure it was a steelhead until he saw the yellow fins. I have no reason to doubt him as he fished all over this state starting in the 30's and I saw lots of pictures of other fish he had caught.
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Bob Smith

Active Member
While fishing for SRC in CA's Smith River estuary this past August, I stopped and asked permission from a dairy farmer to access the upper tidewater adjacent to his property. We chatted awhile and when he found out what I was fishing for, he waved over his milker who showed me a photo of a 24 inch long coastal cutthroat which was caught at Lake Earl, a large coastal lagoon just south of the Smith.

I recently retired from CA DFW as a supervisor of state wildlife areas which included Lake Earl Wildlife Area. I didn't think much of it at the time (other than WOW - that's one big cutthroat), but about 15 years ago, one of our seasonal employees showed me a photo of what he said was a 5 lb coastal cut also caught at Lake Earl. He claimed large cutthroats were (and still are) common there. Lake Earl typically breaches every winter so these fish have access to the ocean - but usually during the winter and early spring months. It could be they are using the adfluvial life history strategy as discussed in this tread.

Along the lines of Brian's comment about trolling with firecracker herring, my personal best SRC is a 22 inch fish I caught with a 6 inch long anchovy/spinner bait. I was fishing on the hook for spring chinook in the upper tidewater of the Rogue River.
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