Golden Trout (Oncorhynchus aguabonita)

Golden Trout (Oncorhynchus aguabonita)

California’s state fish, the golden trout is classified as two recognizable subspecies, O. aguabonita aguabonita of California’s South Fork of the Kern River and Golden Trout Creek, and O. aguabonita gilberti of the main Kern and the Little Kern Rivers; an area of warm water where the South Fork joins the Kern apparently serves as a natural barrier separating the two subspecies.

Identification

The golden trout is considered one of the most beautiful of freshwater gamefish because of its striking coloration and markings; it has a bright red to red-orange belly and cheeks, with golden lower sides, a red-orange lateral streak, and a deep olive-green back.

The sides have 10 parr marks centered on the lateral line, and the golden trout is the only salmonid in which these marks remain prominent throughout life. The tail is a brilliant golden yellow and is covered with large black spots that are also scattered across the back and the upper sides, as well as on the dorsal fins; the front part of the body may have spots above the lateral line on the back and the top of the head, but not always.


Size/Age

The golden trout grows slowly, usually weighing less than a pound, and is capable of reaching 7 years of age. The all-tackle world record is an 11-pound Wyoming fish taken in 1948.

Life history/Behavior

Spawning takes place when water temperatures reach about 50°F in early to midsummer. Stream dwellers spawn in their native streams or small tributaries, and lake dwellers spawn in inlets or outlets. Females dig several nests (redds), generally at the tail of a pool, depositing eggs in each and returning to their home pools or lakes afterward.

Food and feeding habits

Golden trout feed primarily on small crustaceans and adult and immature insects, especially caddisflies and midges.

Other Names

French: truite dorée.

Distribution

Golden trout occur in the upper Kern River basin in Tulare and Kern Counties in California and have been introduced into Canada, as well as into the states of Washington, Idaho, and Wyoming, which have developed self-sustaining populations.

Habitat

Golden trout inhabit clear, cool headwaters, creeks, and lakes at elevations above 6,890 feet.
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