U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Sacramento Fish & Wildlife OfficeServing the people, conserving the fish, wildlife, and plants of California

A Unit Of The Pacific Southwest Region

News Release

California Golden Trout Not Warranted For ESA Listing

Service finds the colorful state fish not at serious risk of extinction

October 7, 2011

Golden Trout, Crabtree Meadows Aug 2008

Photo: Kevin Aceituno, USFWS

Media Contacts:
Media Contact: Sarah Swenty
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
o:(916) 414-6571

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that the California golden trout does not warrant listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Since the petition to list was filed, conservation measures throughout the trout’s historic range have done much to protect the species. In large part because of those measures, the Service determined that the intensity of threats do not indicate the species is endangered, or likely to become so, in the foreseeable future.

In part, the Service reached this conclusion because a cooperation conservation agreement signed in 2004 between private groups and government agencies is in place and providing significant benefits to the species.

Designated the official state fish in 1947, California golden trout have experienced population pressures for more than a century. They have been subjected to habitat degradation from grazing on numerous occasions since the 1800s; hybridization threats from introduced rainbow trout for at least 75 years, and predation and competition from brown trout since the 1940s. In 2000, Trout Unlimited petitioned the Service to list the subspecies based on those threats.

In 2004, the Service, the U.S. Forest Service and the California Department of Fish and Game signed a landmark agreement to protect the species. Government agencies and key local stakeholders, including Trout Unlimited, the Orvis Company, CalTrout, and the Federation of Fly Fishers, have undertaken numerous habitat restoration projects, curtailed cattle grazing in the area, and stepped up studies of the fish.

“This is an excellent example of agencies, organizations and individuals realizing that America’s fish, wildlife and plant resources belong to us all and it’s our shared responsibility to help imperiled species,” said Susan Moore, Field Supervisor for the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office. “By stepping up to the plate everyone involved has helped the California golden trout go from a species on the brink of listing to a species with a bright future.”

Other actions undertaken as part of the Conservation Strategy have made a difference to the health of the population. They include removal of introgressed trout (trout whose genetic makeup has changed due to hybridization with non-native trout) from the headwaters of Golden Trout Creek as well as repair, maintenance and monitoring of three important fish barriers on the South Fork Kern River. Those barriers help to prevent competition and predation from brown trout and also prevent further hybridization of the species with rainbow trout downstream.

California golden trout is a subspecies of rainbow trout. Formerly known as Volcano Creek golden trout, they are well known for their bright coloration, red to red-orange belly and cheeks, bright gold lower sides, a central lateral band that is red-orange, and a deep olive-green back.  California golden trout can reach lengths of 7 to 8 inches. 

California golden trout have been known to live as long as nine years, and they commonly reach six to seven years old. This is extremely old for stream-dwelling trout, and is likely due to the short growing season, high densities of fish, and a low abundance of food in these streams.  These conditions create competition for scarce resources, promoting slow growth rates that lead to old ages of trout. 

Last updated: December 4, 2017