California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Kern River Rainbow Trout

Kern River Rainbow Trout

California Heritage Trout Challenge
Historic Drainages

To qualify for the Heritage Trout Challenge Certificate, a native trout must be caught from its historic drainage. A historic drainage for this purpose includes the trout’s native range (in California) and other waters within the drainage(s) where that native range is located.

For example, Heenan Lake, a designated Heritage Trout water, has a Lahontan cutthroat trout fishery. Although Heenan Lake is not part of the cutthroat's original native range, it is located on a tributary in the East Fork Carson River drainage, which is part of the native range historically occupied by Lahontan cutthroat trout. Thus, a cutthroat caught at Heenan Lake qualifies for the Heritage Trout Challenge.

Native trout historically occupied certain waters of the state by natural means—these waters form all or part of the native range for each of the trout. Beside natural means, some human-caused actions have influenced where native trout are found today. For well over 100 years, people have moved many kinds of trout around the state. Native trout have been displaced by competition and predation from introduced trout in many waters. Non-natives like brown trout and brook trout were brought into California waters in the late 1800’s and are now widespread. Many native trout, especially cutthroat and golden trout, have been impacted and altered by hybridization with introduced trout. Illegal movement of trout is a continued threat to native trout.

Most of these native trout are not as abundant and widespread as they were in the 1850’s. Some are so diminished that they have been listed under the Endangered Species Act. One of our native trout, the bull trout of the McCloud River, is now extinct in California. For several decades CDFW biologists have led efforts to conserve and restore native trout. The Department is committed to activities that will ensure that native trout are here for Californians now and in the future.

In some cases, stocking and transplanting have expanded populations of trout beyond their original native range. California golden trout have been spread to hundreds of Sierra Nevada lakes and many miles of stream beyond the streams of the upper Kern River drainage where they originated. Some trout have been stocked in waters that were historically fishless. New populations of native trout have been established in some waters as part of restoration and recovery efforts. Native trout, especially the coastal rainbow trout, have been selectively bred, cultured at hatcheries, and stocked throughout the state.