Golden trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss aguabonita)

Category: Fish
Common names: Kern River golden trout, Mountain trout, California golden trout

Description and Range

Physical description

Golden trout are popular game fish on a limited scale because of their limited distribution. They are a subspecies of rainbow trout native to a restricted area in Northern California. They have an olive back with distinctive golden sides that give them their name. On each side of the body there is a red, horizontal band along the lateral line and about 10 dark, vertical, oval-shaped marks (called "parr marks") normally associated with only fingerlings that say on the fish for two to three years of age. Dorsal, lateral and anal fins have white leading edges. Dark spots occur on the upper half of the body, dorsal fin, adipose fin, and caudal fin.Average 8-12 inches. Golden trout can grow to 15+ inches in quality populations.

Where you may encounter golden trout

Lakes where this species may be found

Grays Harbor County
Jefferson County
Yakima County

How to fish for golden trout

Most of the same techniques used for fishing for trout at lower elevation lakes will work for fishing for Golden Trout. One major point to keep in mind is that high lake waters are normally very clear. Light leaders (usually 4 pound test or less) and a stalking approach are needed as the fish can see out of the lakes extremely well. The most effective times to fish are generally early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Midday can be slow, especially in sunny weather. Exceptions are usually related to weather and insect activity. During midday periods, when fish aren't rising, the more effective approach is to use bait or lures near the lake bottom, 50-150 feet from shore.

Fly fishing can be very effective in the high lakes under many weather conditions. Back-casting room can be a problem though, unless you bring a small raft or float tube. Typical fly rods and reels that you would use in low lakes or streams will work, with the main concern being rod length when broken down while hiking. Medium-weight lines (5-7 wt.) will handle most conditions for casting and presentation, while long leaders (12'+) work better than short ones. Leader tippets should be as small as possible. Where fly-casting is impractical, tossing flies with a light spinning outfit and a casting bubble can be equally productive. Standard spinning rods and reels can be used very effectively to fish with spinners and spoons or with bait. Light or ultra-light weight tackle is recommended. Trolling requires a raft, float tube or similar device but fishing from shore can be very productive as well. Most fish feed in the shallower water close to shore where insect activity, both terrestrial and aquatic, is highest. Bait-fishing can also be effective, using worms, eggs, artificial paste baits, or combinations. Bait can be dangled downward from a floating bobber or can float upward from a slip-sinker, both of which provide weight to cast the bait outward from shore. Lures, mainly spinners or spoons, can be very effective trolled or casting fish. Fly-fishing can be nearly as effective as bait-fishing. Use dry fly patterns when fish are surface feeding, and nymph, leech or other subsurface patterns when little feeding activity is apparent. Effective dry patterns include black gnat, mosquito, Adams, blue dun, black ant, and deer-hair caddis. Wet patterns of choice include wooly worms, chironomids (TDC's), hare's ears, and Carey Specials.

Remember, when handling any fish you intend to release, wet your hands first so you don't take off the fish's protective slippery coating. Dry hands will remove the protective coating and make the fish vulnerable to bacterial or fungal infections, which can kill them.

State record

WeightAnglerLocationDate Caught
4.17 lbs Arthur Jackson Gunn Lake, Snohomish County October 2, 2020

See all sportfish records