Hybrid Fish

 Species      Weight      Length       Water                  Angler               Date 

Splake         10.78       28.5       Ririe Res.           Brian Allison  05/12/2006

Tiger Muskie 44.25     52.5     Little Payette Lk    Ed Kalinowski 08/06/2013

Tiger Trout   1.86       17.5      Jim Moore Pond   Meleah Phillips 05/11/2016

Cuttbow      34.74      41.13     Am Falls Res         Mark Adams 07/25/2011

Record hybrid fish caught by anglers.  Source, Idaho Department of Fish and Game

A cross between a rainbow trout and a cutthroat trout is called a cuttbow. Catch one at Henrys Lake and you may have a trophy at the end of your line, as they grow large and fast. These prized hybrids are specifically stocked in the lake to provide a sport fishery in addition to native cutthroats and non-native brook trout.

This same hybrid caught on the South Fork of the Snake River would be considered a problem. Here, non-native rainbow trout hybridize naturally with the Yellowstone cutthroats and the hybrids compete with the natives. Anglers are encouraged to harvest all rainbow and hybrid trout they catch.

Hybrid fish species have hooked anglers and fish managers for many years. The first documented hybrid cross of a male brook trout and a female lake trout, called a splake, was recorded in 1880. But much of the experimentation with hybrids has occurred in the past 50 years.

For fish managers, hybrids provide tantalizing opportunities to play god. Could they create a tackle-busting “superfish”? In reality though, most hybrids are developed with the intent to solve management dilemmas.

One of the most common problems managers face is with species that tend to overpopulate. These are often non-game fish such as Utah chubs and suckers, but even game fish can get out of control. It is very common for yellow perch and brook trout to overproduce, resulting in thousands of fish that never reach adult size.

If managers employ a predator such as walleye or lake trout to take care of the overpopulation, there is a real risk that the predators will reproduce quickly and decimate their prey base. Enter hybrids. Commonly, hybrids are sterile, so managers have good control over populations in a lake or reservoir. If they want to decrease their numbers, they just stop stocking them.

Tiger muskies, for instance, a sterile hybrid cross between a female muskellunge and male northern pike, are commonly used to keep target fish populations in check. They were first employed in Idaho in 1988 at Mud Lake to control overpopulated perch and are now being used in some mountain lakes to control stunted brook trout. They are common in lakes in northern Idaho.

Another advantage hybrids sometimes have is called hybrid vigor. Hybrids may become larger, fight harder or grow faster than either parent species or may fit a specific habitat niche otherwise unfilled. For instance, splake grow more quickly than brook trout yet can tolerate smaller waters where lack of deep water would limit lake trout.

Tiger trout are a sterile cross between brown trout and brook trout. These predators seem to always be hungry and Idaho managers have just started to use them in Idaho. Jim Moore Pond at Roberts has tiger trout intended to improve the perch fishing by thinning the perch and allowing the survivors to grow larger.   

Another interesting hybrid cross is the wiper or whiterock bass. This is a cross between a striped bass female and a white bass male. This cross occurs naturally, but became part of the aquaculture scene in the late 1980s. The hybrid outshines either parent for aquaculture because it better handles extremes in temperature and dissolved oxygen.

Whether a hybrid fish is a hero or a zero is largely dependent on location and whether or not hybridization can occur naturally as with the cuttbows. Hybrids are a management tool that if carefully used, can improve fishing and provide additional opportunities

Wildlife License Plates

Idaho Wildlife license plates provide essential funding that benefits the great diversity of native plants and wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—over 10,000 species or 98% of Idaho’s species diversity. Game species that share the same habitats (such as elk, deer, antelope, sage-grouse, salmon, trout) also benefit from these specialty plates.

No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs. Neither are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent on nongame species. Instead, these species depend on direct donations, federal grants, fundraising initiatives—and the Idaho Wildlife license plates.

Both my vehicles have Bluebird Plates. I prefer the bluebird because the nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, but only 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs (to benefit the livestock industry) and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.

Incidentally, in 2014, the Idaho Legislature denied the Department of Fish and Game the ability to add new plates or even to change the name of the elk and cutthroat plates (very specific) to wildlife and fish plates, a move that would have allowed for changing images occasionally and generating more revenue. It would seem that they believe that we Idahoans don't want a well funded wildlife program.

I think it is time we let the Legislature know that Idahoan support wildlife funding and that we would like to see these generic plates come to fruition.

"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson

That is embarrassing, but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), it is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.

Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.

Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.

Readers Write:

"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman

"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.

To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version 


Copies are also available at:

Post Register

Island Park Builders Supply (upstairs)

Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls

Harriman State Park, Island Park

Museum of Idaho

Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming

Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah

Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho