Little Kern Golden Trout

Little Kern Golden Oncorhynchus mykiss whitei

Illustration by Steve Schalla














 DESCRIPTION: The Little Kern golden trout is a member of the Salmonidae (trout and salmon) family. It is a brightly colored fish with profuse spots on the back and tail. The belly and cheeks are bright red to red-orange, the lower sides are bright gold, the lateral band is red-orange, and the back is deep olive green. Little Kern golden trout typically retain up to 10 parr marks (vertical dark oval spots) on each side as adults. The Little Kern subspecies is distinguishable from the South Fork of the Kern golden trout (Oncorhynchus aguabonita aguabonita) primarily by spotting characteristics and parr marks. Unlike the South Fork subspecies, the Little Kern golden trout typically has many spots on the head and below the lateral line. The parr marks are arranged vertically on both sides of the body with an intermediate row of smaller ones often occurring just below the main row.

 DISTRIBUTION: The Little Kern golden trout is native to the Little Kern River and the accessible reaches of its major tributaries in Tulare County, California. [SEE MAP] Its present distribution has been drastically altered from historical conditions by early unofficial "coffee pot" transplants that established it in some waters outside its historic range and later by authorized transplants of nonnative trout into the Little Kern River basin that displaced it from many of its historic habitats. Genetic studies have identified pure Little Kern golden trout populations in Soda Spring Creek, Deadman Creek, Wet Meadows Creek, Willow Creek, Fish Creek and Coyote Creek. All of these streams except Coyote Creek are within the native drainage. Before the initiation of recovery efforts, fewer than 5,000 Little Kern golden trout existed in less than 11 miles of stream habitat within the Little Kern River basin. Recovery efforts by the Department of Fish and Game, Forest Service, and National Park Service have thus far restored Little Kern golden trout to approximately 32 miles of stream habitat and three lakes within the Little Kern River basin.

 CLASSIFICATION: Federal Threatened Species (Federal Register 43:15427; April 13, 1978).

HABITAT: Critical Habitat consists of the entire Little Kern River basin upstream from the barrier falls one mile below the mouth of Trout Meadows Creek. The critical habitat is entirely within the boundaries of Sequoia National Park or Sequoia National Forest, Tulare County, California.

SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS: The Department of Fish and Game wrote a management plan for Little Kern golden trout that was accepted as the official recovery plan for this species by the Service. The golden trout is the California State fish. Ongoing recovery efforts can save it from becoming extinct like the State mammal--the California grizzly bear