The golden trout , is a sub-species of the rainbow trout. 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.
Golden Trout caught in high mountain lake of the Wind River Range.
(The golden trout has nothing but golden flanks with 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 fontinalis) outcompete them for food, introduced brown trout (Salmo trutta) prey on them and introduced rainbow trout (O. 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.