Take the challenge!
By catching six different forms of California native trout from their historical drainages and photographing these fish you can receive a colorful, personalized certificate featuring the art of renowned fish illustrator Joseph Tomelleri. Your certificate will show six full-color images representing the trout you caught, along with the dates and locations. It is sized to fit in a standard 16" x 20" matted frame.
We welcome you to “take the Challenge,” explore new waters across the state, and appreciate the diverse recreational fishing opportunities California has to offer.
To qualify for the Challenge, six different native trout must be caught within their historic range. The historical range, for the purpose of the Challenge, includes the trout’s native distribution in California, prior to statehood (1850), and all waters that feed into this watershed.
For example, catching a Lahontan Cutthroat Trout in Heenan Lake (Alpine County) qualifies for the Challenge. Although historically fishless, the lake outlet flows into the East Fork Carson River, where Lahontan Cutthroat Trout were once the only trout to inhabit this system. It is within their historic and native range.
Conversely, native species have been stocked in waters outside their native range to provide additional sport fishing opportunities. California Golden Trout can now be caught in many high-elevation streams and lakes across the Sierra Nevada; however, only those from the South Fork Kern River or Golden Trout Creek drainages qualify as a heritage species for the Challenge.
These three subspecies of Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii) and eight forms of Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) are your targets to complete the Challenge:
- Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii)
- Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)
Rules and Policies
Submit a completed Application Form (PDF) along with your trout photos to:
California Department of Fish and Wildlife
FB, Heritage and Wild Trout Program
P.O. Box 944209
Sacramento, CA 94244-2090
- The requirements to document your catch include where, when, and how each fish was caught, along with a photograph of the trout.
- Fish caught within their historic range will qualify as long as sport fishing regulations were followed and the fish has the outward appearance that validates the target species. Please check the current fishing regulations to ensure your fishing activities comply with the legal open season and any gear restrictions.
- It’s important staff can identify the trout so clear pictures of the entire fish are important. The angler doesn’t need to be in the picture but, rather, the main goal is to capture a clear close-up photo of the fish itself, to verify the species or form.
- Since this is a recognition program with no time limit, old photographs can be used as long as the trout can be identified.
- Only one certificate per calendar year may be earned. Anglers may apply in subsequent years with different combinations of native trout.
- Anglers may not use the same trout submitted for previous Heritage Trout Challenge applications. Anglers may catch the same species again on a different date and/or location to qualify for additional Challenge certificates.
- All photos and applications become property of CDFW and cannot be returned.
- After applications are reviewed by CDFW, anglers will be notified by mail. All decisions are final.
Part of "taking the Challenge” will include learning more about the native trout of California, where they are found, and what is being done to conserve and restore these “Heritage Trout.” The following information is offered to help you complete the Challenge:
- Key Terms
- Historic Drainages
- Native vs. Wild: A wild trout is born in the wild and spends its life cycle in the wild, regardless of the origin of its parents or ancestors. A native trout is a trout that was found in California originally, prior to human influences.
- Heritage Trout
- Learn more about California native trout
Heritage and Wild Trout Program