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Montana State Fish

Blackspotted Cutthroat Trout

On February 10, 1977, Governor Thomas Judge signed the law designating the blackspotted cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki) as Montana's official state fish.

The idea for a state fish began when Norma Ashby and her husband, Shirley, of Great Falls were discussing state symbols. Both ardent fly fishermen, they wondered why there was no designated state fish.

With the endorsement of the Montana Fish and Game Department and the support of the Department's District 4 Coordinator, Nels Thoreson in Great Falls, Ashby launched a statewide campaign for a state fish on the "Today in Montana" show, which she produced on the Montana Television Network.

Two candidates for the honor were proposed: the Blackspotted Cutthroat Trout and the Montana Grayling, but other nominations were accepted. Both the blackspotted cutthroat trout and the Montana grayling were on the threatened species list. It was felt that through this kind of attention, conditions for these fish could be improved.

The Cutthroat has an historic association with Montana. "It bears Captain William Clark's name (Salmo Clarkii) from his identification of it at the Great Falls of the Missouri on the Lewis and Clark westward journey in 1805. The explorers noted in their journals: "These trout (caught in the falls) are from 16 to 23 inches in length, precisely resemble our mountain or speckled trout in form and the position of their fins, but the specks on these are of a deep black instead of the red or gold color of those common in the United States."

Special Acknowledgements to: Montana Historical Society, Rex C. Meyers and Norma B. Ashby

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