Heritage Trout Challenge


illustrations of trout and California scenery by Tim Gunther
Artwork by Tim Gunther, Gunther Graphics.

Take the challenge!

By catching six different forms of California native trout from their historic drainages and photographing these fish you can receive a colorful, personalized certificate featuring the art of renowned fish illustrator Joseph Tomelleri(opens in new tab). 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.

Qualifying Trout

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:

Historic Drainages

Map of historic trout watersheds - link opens in new window
Click to enlarge

Rules and Policies

To submit an application use the Online Application Form

Submit a completed Application Form (PDF)(opens in new tab) 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.

Research Resources

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:


Heritage and Wild Trout Program
Staff Directory

Fisheries Branch
1010 Riverside Parkway, West Sacramento, CA 95605 | Fisheries@wildlife.ca.gov