For 50 years I have been both fascinated and concerned about a beautiful and extremely rare little purple trout, the Paiute Cutthroat Trout, (Salmo Clarki Seleniris). Paiutes could well be the rarest trout in the world. They are so rare because they are native to only one section of one stream in the entire world. I’d say that’s pretty rare. Paiutes were originally found isolated between two waterfalls on a stretch of Silver King Creek, a tributary of the Carson River in a remote section of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
For about 15 years in the 1960s and 1970s it was possible to legally fish for Paiute Trout in the high mountain meadows of Silver King Creek. Several times I would back pack seven or eight miles into Silver King Valley and spend a couple days catching and releasing hundreds of Paiute Trout. The broad alpine meadows were decorated by a meandering knee-deep creek that was lined with a profusion of magnificent wildflowers. We’d dig a few wild onions along the creek and fry the Paiute in our skillet with bacon and onions. Dear Lord, my taste buds thought they had died and gone to Heaven.
Somehow, Rainbow and Cutthroat Trouts got into the Paiute waters and because they will cross-breed, the entire Paiute species is at risk of extinction. About 10 years ago a joint effort by the California Department of Fish & Game, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife service and volunteer citizen conservation groups, led to a cohesive recovery plan to bring the endangered trout back from the brink of extinction. The plan involves closing the Silver King to fishing and removing the Rainbows and Cutthroats Hopefully, the restoration efforts will pay off enough to remove the beautiful Paiute Trout from its endangered status.
If the recovery plan is successful, you and I may once again have a chance to catch Paiute Trout in a setting that is about as close to Heaven as we’re gonna get on this earth. It may take another eight or 10 years, but I’m already looking forward to it. The hike in isn’t easy, but as you sit around the campfire watching the stars and listening to the coyotes serenade you, you think that it’s a trip well worth the effort. If you want more information on the incredibly beautiful Paiute Trout check out the California Department of Fish & Wildlife website or you can just drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time, Tight Lines.
Don Moyer is a longtime Central Valley resident and avid outdoorsman. He contributes occasional columns.