Golden Trout

A favorite catch for many local anglers is the golden trout, also known as the palomino trout, large fish with notable fighting ability. The palomino trout is actually a form of the rainbow trout.

Credit: - Justin Tellian

The first golden-colored rainbow trout was raised in a West Virginia fish hatchery in 1954. This trout was crossed with other rainbows, resulting in other golden-colored offspring. All the palomino trout found throughout the country are a byproduct of this offspring.

A different golden trout evolved in higher elevations the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. This trout can be distinguished from the palomino trout by intense yellow, green, red and purple markings that cover its body, especially the bluish-purple "parr" markings on its flank, whereas the palomino trout is mostly a gold color. This trout was thought to be a separate species, but most taxonomists now classify this as a subspecies of the rainbow trout.

The golden trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss aguabonita) evolved in cold and clear streams on the Kern plateau in California at elevations of 8,000 to 12,000 feet above sea level. This very brightly colored fish attains a size of about 8 inches to 12 inches and grows to about 1 pound at maturity.

Early anglers were so impressed with this fish that they stocked it in other high elevation lakes and streams in California, Arizona and New Mexico. California adopted the golden trout as its state fish in 1947.

Populations of this native fish began declining due to the grazing of livestock and the stocking of non-native brook and brown trout throughout the watersheds. Livestock strippedthe habitat, and the non-native fish preyed upon and hybridized with the native golden trout.

Acknowledging the peril of this fish, the U.S. Forest Service dedicated 300,000 acres of prime habitat as the Golden Trout Wilderness area in 1978. Creating this sanctuary protects the trout from livestock grazing and other harmful activities. In addition, conservation groups are working to remove the non-native fish from these streams and reintroduce golden trout in other suitable locations. The net result is that golden trout numbers are increasing throughout their native range.

Article by FCFCDB

Nature Notes for 4/4/2010