California Golden Trout Identification

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California Golden Trout

Illustration by Steven Schalla,, used with permission

The Golden Trout, aka the “Volcano Creek Golden Trout” can be distinguished by its bright golden body. The back has a brassy or copper coloration. A bright red stripe goes through the center of the body with dark purple parr marks along the lateral line. The belly is usually a deep crimson and the pelvic, anal, and dorsal fins are orange and yellow with white tips.

Compared to the Little Kern Golden, the “Volcano Creek” Golden is more brightly colored and has fewer spots.

The Golden Trout is officially the “state fish” of California, and has been widely stocked outside of its native range and many self-sustaining populations exist outside of the original area.  However, most stocked fish are hybridized with rainbow trout.

The CA Golden’s “native waters” are currently quite restricted, essentially the drainages of two streams: the appropriately named “Golden Trout Creek”, from its headwaters to the “falls”, and the South Fork of the Kern River. Historically, the original range of the California extended well south of the current area, but predation by brown trout, and interbreeding by rainbow trout has greatly restricted populations south of the Schaeffer Barrier. Brown and rainbow trout managed to invade north of the Schaeffer Barrier and even upstream of the Templeton barrier, so the purest populations are most likely found either in Golden Trout Creek or in the headwaters of the South Fork Kern River, above the Ramshaw Barrier. Check state regulations. Currently Golden Trout Creek is open to fishing as a “Heritage Area”.

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