Fishing for Bull Trout (native)


Bull trout photograph by Roger Bloom
Bull trout from Oregon. CDFW photo by Roger Bloom
  • Closely related to and commonly misidentified as brook trout (both are members of the char family).
  • A distinguishing characteristic is the lack of black spots on the dorsal fin.
  • Do not have vermiculations that occur on brook trout.
  • While variable, bull trout body coloration is primarily grayish-green, fading to a white or orange belly.
  • Vibrantly-colored spots on the body may range from white to pale-yellow, or even pink to red.
  • Fins are spotless except for a few yellow dots at the base of the tail.
  • Lower fins with orange and red hues and a white leading edge.
  • The head is broad and long compared to other char and trout.
  • The flattened head with eyes positioned towards the top is assumed to help bull trout observe prey located above them, as they generally hold at or near the bottom under cover and are ambush predators.


Map of bull trout historic watersheds - click to enlarge in new window
(Click to enlarge)
  • Historic distribution extended from British Colombia to northern California.
  • Once inhabited the McCloud River and tributaries (Shasta and Siskiyou counties) from the mouth of the river (now inundated by Lake Shasta) to Lower Falls.
  • Bull trout may have inhabited cold spring-fed portions of the upper Sacramento and Pit rivers, but only anecdotal evidence exists to support this concept.
  • As with many western native trout species, bull trout populations have declined substantially from historic levels. One of the principal limiting factors is their need for very cold and non-polluted water.
  • Last reported sighting in California was in 1975 and they are believed to be extirpated from this state, largely due to habitat loss associated with dams and direct competition with introduced brown trout.

Fisheries Branch
1010 Riverside Parkway, West Sacramento, CA 95605 |