Apache Trout (Oncorhynchus apache)

Apache Trout (Oncorhynchus apache)

A member of the Salmonidae family, the Apache trout is Arizona’s state fish and was once so abundant that early pioneers caught and salted large numbers of them as a winter meat source. Since those times, a 95-percent reduction in range has resulted from hybridization with rainbow trout, brook trout, and other trout. The Apache trout was among the first fish species protected when the Endangered Species Act of 1973 was enacted, and it is currently listed as “threatened” or “likely to become endangered in the near future.”

Identification

The Apache trout is a striking fish, with yellow to golden sides, an adipose fin, and a large dark spot behind each eye. The head, the back, the sides, and the fins have evenly spaced dark spots, and the dorsal, the pelvic, and the anal fins are white tipped. The underside of the head is orange to yellowish-orange, with a complete lateral line of 112 to 124 scales.

Size

Adult fish usually range from 8 to 15 inches in length, although they can reach 18 inches. The all-tackle world record is a 5-pound, 3-ounce fish taken in Arizona in 1991.


Life history/Behavior

Depending on the geographic elevation, spawning occurs between March and mid-June; the higher the elevation, the later spawning occurs, beginning when water temperatures reach 46°F. Females lay between 100 and 4,000 eggs in nests (called redds) at the downstream ends of pools; the lower egg counts occur in wild stream populations and the higher counts in hatcheries.

Food

As with other trout that live in flowing water, Apache trout eat both aquatic and terrestrial insects such as mayflies, caddisflies, and grasshoppers.

Other Names

Arizona trout.

Distribution

The Apache trout occurs in the upper Salt River and the Little Colorado River systems (the Colorado River drainage) in Arizona. It exists in the West Fork of the Black River and a few small impoundments, such as Lee Valley Lake, and the largest population is on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation.

Habitat

Apache trout inhabit clear, cool mountain headwaters of streams and creeks above 7,500 feet and mountain lakes. They are dependent on pool development, shade-giving streamside vegetation, and undercut banks for cover and are capable of tolerating a range of temperatures.
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