Golden trout

Golden trout

The Golden trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss aguabonita), is a sub-species of the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). The fish is also known as the California golden trout and is native to Golden Trout Creek, Volcano Creek and the South Fork Kern River. Another variant, O. m. whitei, was historically found only in the Little Kern River but is now found in other nearby creeks, as well. The golden trout is commonly found at elevations of 10,000 ft (3,000 m) above sea level, and is native to California. Originally placed in the species Oncorhynchus aguabonita, most taxonomists now classify the golden trout as a subspecies of the rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss, placing it with several other subspecies commonly known as redband trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss ssp.

The golden trout has golden flanks with a red, horizontal band along the lateral line and 10 dark oval marks, called "parr marks", on each side. Dorsal, lateral and anal fins have white leading edges. In their native habitat, adults range from 6–12 in (15–30 cm) long. Fish over 10 in (25 cm) are considered large. Golden trout that have been transplanted to lakes have been recorded up to 11 lb (5 kg) in weight. The world record golden trout was caught by Charles S. Reed, on August 5, 1948, from Cook Lake in the Wind River Range. That fish was 28 in (70 cm) long and weighed 11.25 lb (5.1 kg). Preferred water temperature is 58–62 °F (14–17 °C).

Years of overexploitation, mismanagement and competition with exotic species have brought these fish to the brink of being designated as threatened. Introduced brook trout ("Salvelinus fontanalis") outcompete them for food, introduced brown trout ("Salmo trutta") prey on them and introduced rainbow trout ("Oncorhynchus mykiss'") hybridize with them, damaging the native gene pool through introgression.

The golden trout was designated the state fish of California in 1947. Populations have been in steady decline for decades. As a result, the California Department of Fish and Game signed an agreement with federal agencies in September 2004 to work on restoring back-country habitat. Conservationists have also been attempting to introduce golden trout to other waters such as to Lake Mohave in Nevada and Arizona.

The golden trout should be distinguished from the similarly-named golden rainbow trout, also known as the palomino trout. The golden rainbow is actually a color variant of the rainbow trout.

Chuck Yeager and the New Mexico population

After then-Colonel Chuck Yeager introduced one of his commanding officers, General Irving "Twig" Branch, to the Sierra Nevada populations of golden trout, Branch ordered Yeager and Bud Anderson to introduce the species to the mountain streams of New Mexico, where they can be fished to this day.

In his second autobiography, Press On, Yeager details his annual fishing trips to catch golden trout which he extols as one of the best game fish and best eating fish to be found.


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