Golden trout (Oncorhynchus)
This small, slender trout is mostly golden yellow with accents of red along the sides and underside. Golden trout have black speckles along the top from the nose to the tail, as well as larger black spots on the sides. The dorsal, pelvic, and anal fins are usually tipped with white. Coloration and spotting varies greatly between subspecies and according to season.
Golden trout feed primarily on aquatic-born insects such as mayflies, caddisflies, and stoneflies. They will also eat nearly any insect that falls into the water. Feeding usually happens at the end of the riffles and under cover beside the stream bank, where there is a higher density of insects.
The native range of the golden trout is very small: The Kern, Little Kern, and Golden Trout streams of the upper Kern River drainage in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. They are also found in the Cottonwood Lakes in the Inyo National Forest and Lake Isabella. Numerous other national parks and forests have introduced golden trout to their lakes and streams. They have also been introduced to some mountain lakes of southwestern Alberta, Canada and Idaho.
Golden trout are found in cold, high-elevation streams and lakes between 6,000 and 10,000 feet. They like swift streams that are no more than 71 F, but also inhabit cold-water lakes.
- The golden trout became the California state fish on April 14, 1947. In 1978, the federal government created the Golden Trout Wilderness in east-central California. The 303,287 acres that stretch across Sequoia National Forest and Inyo National Forest were set aside to protect the remaining genetically unspoiled population of goldens from the brown, brook, and rainbow trout. The goldens have been interbreeding with the rainbows, making a new subspecies and putting the goldens gene pool at risk. Brown and brook trout populations create severe competition for food, spawning habitat, and space causing golden trout populations to decline.
- The Little Kern golden trout, Oncorhynchus aquabonita whitei, and the Volcano Creek golden trout, O. aguabonita gilberti,are subspecies of the golden trout. The Little Kern goldens were put on the threatened and endangered species list by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife on April 13, 1978.
- Specific classification of the golden trout and its two subspecies are currently being revised.