Rare Trout reintroduced in the Sierra

Jeff Weaver | CDFW Heritage and Wild Trout Program

California’s native Paiute cutthroat trout, the rarest trout in North America, swims once again in its high Sierra home waters for the first time in more than 100 years.

Representatives from California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Golden Gate Trout Unlimited and Little Antelope Pack Station joined biologists to release 30 Paiute cutthroat trout of varying sizes into Silver King Creek within Carson-Iceberg Wilderness area of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, according to a press release.

Not since the early 1900s have genetically pure Paiute cutthroat trout occupied the 11-mile stretch of Silver King Creek between Llewellyn Falls and Snodgrass Creek that represents almost the entirety of the fish’s historic range. The Paiute cutthroat trout was one of the first animals in the nation listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

In 1975, the species was down listed to federally threatened to allow for a special rule that would facilitate management of the species by the State of California. Efforts to save and restore the species have spanned several decades and involved removing non-native fish and restocking Paiute cutthroat trout from source populations.

The fish reintroduced into Silver King Creek on Sept. 18 were collected from a source population in Coyote Valley Creek about 2 miles away and transported by mules to the banks of Silver King Creek. The fish were deposited into buckets filled with water from Silver King Creek to acclimate for several minutes before being released among cheers and applause by biologists and others, some of whom have spent decades working toward the historic homecoming.

Restoring Paiute cutthroat trout to their native Silver King Creek nearly doubles the amount of habitat available to the fish and is considered key to their long-term survival and potential delisting.

Monitoring of the reintroduced fish and additional restocking of Paiute cutthroat trout into Silver King Creek from other refuge populations is planned in future years. | wildlife.ca.gov