California’s Golden Trout

Golden troutNamed the official state fish by act of the Legislature in 1947, the golden trout, a sub-species of the rainbow trout, is native only to California’s Golden Trout Creek, Volcano Creek and the South Fork of the Kern River.  Fish that survived powerful geologic forces over the past 1.5 million years and then were isolated in geographic basins with cold, clear water and high waterfalls, slowly evolved over the next 100,000 years into a species that is small (average length 5 to 7 inches), beautiful, distinctive, and spectacular with vibrant colors of gleaming red and gold. However, its pristine environment began to erode around the time of the Gold Rush. Non-native trout were brought into the area to compete for food and territory, and later overgrazing by livestock disrupted the balanced natural habitat. The golden-hued, sometimes named “Fish from Heaven” was brought to the edge of extinction. In 1978, federal legislation created the 303,000 acre Golden Trout Wilderness in the Kern Plateau. In 2004 the U.S. Forest Service and the California Department of Fish and Game developed a plan to restore and maintain golden trout habitat, and people from both public and private sectors have been working to revitalize the golden trout environment and population.