Along with the Apache trout (see: Trout, Apache), the Gila is one of two native trout in Arizona, both severely threatened. Because of interbreeding with rainbow trout (see: Rainbow Trout) and a similarity in appearance to cutthroat trout (see: Trout, Cutthroat), it wasn’t identiﬁed as a separate species until 1950.
A member of the Salmonidae family, the Gila trout is an olive-yellow to brassy ﬁsh, with small irregular black spots across its upper body, head, and dorsal and caudal ﬁns. These markings protect the ﬁsh from predators.
There is an indistinct rose stripe along each side, as well as a yellow “cutthroat” mark under the lower jaw and white or yellow tips on the dorsal, the anal, and the pelvic ﬁns.
Growing to 18 inches, the Gila trout was originally found in tributaries of the Verde River in Arizona and still lives in small numbers in the headwaters of the Gila River in New Mexico. It prefers clear, cool mountain creeks above 7,800 feet in elevation and feeds on both aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates.