Redband Trout are subspecies of the rainbow trout, and exist in two well-defined geographic regions. The Columbia River Redband Trout is found in Montana, Washington and Idaho, and the Great Basin Redband Trout is found in southeastern Oregon and parts of California and Nevada. The Redband Trout is similar in appearance to the rainbow trout, but has larger, more rounded spots and parr marks that remain into adulthood. They generally grow larger than 10 inches. Redband Trout that live in streams tend to have profuse large spots over their bodies and fins (except pectoral) and frequently have an orange cutthroat mark under the jaws. They have a rosy red stripe along lateral line to brick red lateral band (especially in spawning males) and tints of yellow or orange along the ventral region. Gill covers can also be brilliant red.
Six states, four federal agencies, five tribal governments and one non-governmental organization signed a Rangewide Conservation Agreement for Interior Redband Trout in July 2014, agreeing to work together to conserve and protect habitat for this unique trout. The Conservation Agreement for interior Redband Trout is an example of the power of a partnership among state and federal fish and wildlife agencies and tribal nations that has been ongoing since 2009. Western Native Trout Initiative is proud to have been involved in the partnership, convening 13 workshops to complete a comprehensive status review for Redband Trout in partnership with the state fisheries agencies of California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and 11 tribal nations, as well as representatives from private companies. The project was funded through a grant from the National Fish Habitat Action Plan and matching funds from the partnering organizations through the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. When the entire project was complete, the final results involved the expertise of upwards of 95 biologists and ArcGIS technical experts, and 15 data entry personnel. Protecting this fish is a big job and we congratulate all our partners!
Since 2007, the Western Native Trout Initiative has contributed over $648,887 to 16 projects benefiting Redband Trout, including catalyzing and leading the effort to complete the first ever rangewide assessment and status review mentioned above. Other funded projects have been diverse –everything from genetic analysis, telemetry surveys, culvert renovation, levee removal, road relocation, fish ladders, fish screens, streambank stabilization, and large watershed improvement projects.
Muhlfeld, Clint C. , Shannon E. Albeke, Stephanie L. Gunckel, Benjamin J. Writer, Bradley B. Shepard & Bruce E. May (2015) Status and Conservation of Interior Redband Trout in the Western United States, North American Journal of Fisheries Management, 35:1, 31-53, DOI: 10.1080/02755947.2014.951807.
Abstract: In this article we describe the current status and conservation of interior (potamodromous) Redband TroutOncorhynchus mykiss sspp. throughout its range in the western United States using extant data and expert opinion provided by fish managers. Redband Trout historically occupied 60,295 km of stream habitat and 152 natural lakes. Currently, Redband Trout occupy 25,417 km of stream habitat (42% of their historical range) and 124 lakes or reservoirs. Nonhybridized populations are assumed to occupy 11,695 km (46%) of currently occupied streams; however, fish from only 4,473 km (18%) have been genetically tested. Approximately 47% of the streams occupied by Redband Trout occur on private land, 45% on government lands, and 8% in protected areas. A total of 210 Redband Trout populations, occupying 15,252 km of stream habitat (60% of the current distribution) and 95,158 ha of lake habitat (52%), are being managed as “conservation populations.” Most conservation populations have been designated as weakly to strongly connected metapopulations (125; 60%) and occupy much more stream length (14,112 km; 93%) than isolated conservation populations (1,141 km; 7%). The primary threats to Redband Trout include invasive species, habitat degradation and fragmentation, and climate change. Although the historical distribution of interior Redband Trout has declined dramatically, we conclude that the species is not currently at imminent risk of extinction because it is still widely distributed with many populations isolated by physical barriers and active conservation efforts are occurring for many populations. However, the hybridization status of many populations has not been well quantified, and introgression may be more prevalent than documented here. We recommend (1) collecting additional genetic data and estimating distribution and abundance by means of a more rigorous spatial sampling design to reduce uncertainties, (2) collecting additional information to assess and predict the impacts of climate on populations, and (3) continuing to use this database to evaluate the status of Redband Trout and inform conservation efforts through time.
The photo below was taken in Rock Creek (Upper Klamath Basin) during an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife restoration project. Photo credit: Dave Hering, National Park Service.