Mora Cutthroat Trout

This not a specie name

it is just a very special New Mexico trout...


The two photos above are of a female 14” Cutthroat Trout caught in September 2016.  These photos were shot at about 9100’ elevation on the “trail-less” South Fork Rio la Casa.  This is the fish that I am referring to as the Mora Cutthroat Trout.  Downstream from Pyramid Creek at 8800’ elevation, the faint remains of an old roadbed exists above the south bank of the stream.  Please refer to the map near the bottom of this page.  I can find no sign of any trail ever having existed up thru this amazing canyon that is full of dozens of waterfalls... 20 feet, 40 feet, 60 feet and up to 95 feet high. 

For more photos, facts and an updated map of South Fork Rio Casa see:

Also see YOUTUBE-

95’ high South Casa Falls is pictured in this photo below.  

This is likely one of the strongest flowing and higher waterfalls in New Mexico.

60’ high Upper South Casa Falls splashes down this photo below:

A 30’ high waterfall immediately below 95’ high South Casa Falls seems to have blocked the upstream migration of the Mora Cutthroat Trout.  This leaves these Mora trout isolated between 9600’ elevation, down to 8800’ elevation in the South Fork Rio la Casa.  At 8800’ the German Brown Trout can’t seem to get past a 15’ high waterfall near the Pyramid Creek confluence, and Browns have eliminated the Cutts downstream from there.  This same isolation seems to exist between 9000’ and 10,000’ (aprox.) on the Middle Fork Rio Casa.  I have documented them in the Middle Fork but have not proved that they exist in the North Fork Rio la Casa - as yet.


Below on your left, is a photo of a male Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout that was caught in a tributary within the Rio Grande River Basin.  Notice many black spots within the white circle area, along the top of his back, in this photo.  They extend down almost to his eyes.  These spots on the top of the back and in front of the dorcal fin are very typical to Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout.  However, you will notice there are NO black spots on the top of the back, between the nose and the dorcal fin of the Greenback Cutthroat Trout in the photo below on your right.  Please see: the area within the white circle.  Greenback Cutthroat Trout have very few or no black spots on the top of their back in front of the dorcal fin.  Their back is green.  That why they are called “Greenback”.  This female Greenback was caught in Colorado’s eastern slope within the Mississippi River drainage.


Greenback Cutthroat Trout are native to the Mississippi River Basin.  Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout are native to the Rio Grande River Basin.  State lines have no influence on specie existence.  The Mora Cutthroat Trout live in the Mora River Basin which is a tributary within the Mississippi River Drainage.  These trout that I am referring to as Mora Cutthroat Trout are far more related to the Greenback Cutthroat Trout than they are to the Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout...!!!  In fact, I don’t hide behind any tree to say that New Mexico’s Cutthroat Trout, native to the upper Mora River drainage, are actually Greenback Cutthroat Trout residing in their native waters... the Mississippi River Basin.  They are very connected directly to the Greenback Cutthroat Trout populations in Colorado via the waters of the Mississippi River Basin tributary system.  Trout species are separated naturally by major river drainages instead of state lines.  I have yet to meet a trout who could tell me what state he lived in.....!!!!!

The photo below is of the same 14” female Mora River / Greenback Cutthroat Trout as in the first two photos at the top of this page.

The top of this fish’s back sure is green with no black spots... This fish is a Greenback Cutthroat Trout...

And it is living in it’s native waters: the Mississppi River Tributary System.


I have also found these same Mora River - Greenback Cutthroat Trout in other tributaries within the Mora River Basin.  They are in such places as Blue Creek and Little Blue Creek near Black Lakes, NM… as well as Middle Fork Rio Casa.  I expect them to also appear native within the upper reaches of all Rio Mora tributaries, wherever natural protection exists.  They are quite protected, in most streams, by naturally occurring “barrier” waterfalls.  These barrier falls prevent the upstream migration of non-native species... who often eradicate the native cutthroats.  The natural occurring divide between the Rio Grande River Basin and the Mississippi River Basin lies on a ridge between Sapio Creek and Beaver Creek about 85 miles south of the Colorado State line, on the eastern slopes of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of New Mexico.  Beaver Creek has Rio Grande Cutts while Sapio Creek has Greenbacks.  The famous Hermits Peak is on this Divide.


I surely hope NMGF (New Mexico Game & Fish) does not pollute this remote population of special Cutthroat Trout..... by stocking Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout here with their black spotted backs....... then this pure strain could well go extinct...!!!  During my youth years, NMGF destroyed native cutthroat populations within most of the high lakes of the Pecos Wilderness by stocking Fine Spot/Snake River Cutthroats by helicopter.  Today those lakes have half-breed Snake River / Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout.  MISTAKES LIKE THIS ARE IMPOSSIBLE TO FIX…!!!


The upper four and a half miles of South Fork Rio La Casa appear to me and to others who have fished there... to be sterile and void of any kind of trout.  It would sure be wonderful if some of that same strain of Cutthroat Trout could be transported above the many waterfalls and planted within that 4.5 mile portion, as this stretch of the South Fork Rio la Casa is supreme trout habitat with count-less deep pools below many high waterfalls.  However, NO RIO GRANDE CUTTHROAT TROUT HERE PLEASE...!!!  They have spots on their backs...!!!  Please put only Mora River / Greenback Cutthroat Trout here who’s backs are nice and GREEN and... “spotless.”


Another true story I will now share, happened back around 1972.  I found Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout in the upper reaches of Las Animas Creek Basin within the Gila National Forest.  Las Animas Creek is a tributary to the Rio Grande.  Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout are native to all tributaries within the Rio Grande river Basin.


I was 23 years old and thought surely the New Mexico State Game and Fish Wildlife Biologists would be thrilled to learn about this fact.  With great excitement I got an appointment and met with one of them.  The man disdained me.  He explained two things to me: #1. I had no Wildlife Biology Degree and #2. The Gila National Forest had ONLY Gila if trout could read the USFS signs.  He said that the Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout was the only specie of Cutthroat Trout existing in New Mexico.  THIS STATEMENT IS FALSE.  But, hey… he could’t help it.  He worked at a desk.....  He did not get outdoors much and he definitely did not get deep into the wilderness like I do.  About 30 years later NMGF learned that Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout actually do exist in Las Animas Creek of the Gila National Forest.


I am getting to know more of the Wildlife Biologist now working for NMGF.  They are getting out into the field much more now.  It is actually exciting and fun to visit with today’s new generation of Wildlife Biologists..... and here is another secret.  They will soon find out that some upper mountain trout streams in extreme western New Mexico, near the Arizona line, are within the Colorado River Drainage and likely host native populations of Colorado River Cutthroat Trout possibly above some likely natural “barrier” waterfalls...!!!  - like within the Navajo Nation’s Chuska Mountains and maybe Wheatfields Creek or Whiskey Creek or some others... 


Truth is- New Mexico has existing natural habitat for three individual species of Cutthroat Trout: Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout, Greenback Cutthroat Trout and Colorado River Cutthroat Trout.  Bacause all three of the major river basins that these trout are native to, exist within our boundaries.  Gila Trout, also native to the Land of enchantment, have no red cutthroat markings on their bodies.  Hopefully someday, man will work with nature instead of against nature.

Upper Rio la Casa Map

“Right-click-save-image” on our map below to have your own file and print a hard copy to take into the field with you when you go...


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