Oncorhynchus mykiss subspecies

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General Information
Common Name: 
Goose Lake redband trout

Conservation Status in California: Class 3, Near threatened (Moyle et al. 2011).
While there is no immediate extinction risk the California populations are not entirely secure because they are largely isolated from each other, most are small, and during drought periods the lake population disappears and stream populations shrink.

Life History: 

Life History: Goose Lake redband trout have two life history strategies: a lake strategy and a headwater strategy. Lake strategy fish live in Goose Lake where they grow to large size and spawn in tributary streams. Headwater strategy fish remain small and spend their entire life cycle in streams. It is almost certain that the two forms represent one population because the desiccation of Goose Lake presumably has eliminated the lake forms repeatedly in the past. This was demonstrated in 1992 when the lake dried up entirely during a prolonged drought. In the next two years, the lake refilled and about three years later, small runs of large trout appeared in the streams again. The best explanation for this is that the new fish came from stream-resident populations. In the small cold streams of the Warner Mountains above the lake, scattered populations of resident trout have managed to persist, completing their entire life cycle in the streams. They look quite different because of small size and color patterns, reflecting responses to a stream environment. Most of these populations are above apparent barriers to fish coming in from the lake. Presumably, small numbers of headwater redbands always moved downstream, a natural mechanism for dispersing to new habitats or for recolonizing streams wiped out by drought or other natural disasters. Some of these fish reach the lake and a few years later, they mature and spawn, renewing the cycle. It is also possible that progeny of lake trout can persist in some lower-elevation tributaries (e.g., Cold Creek).
In California, the lake-dwelling form spawns in Lassen and Willow Creeks. If sufficient flows are available, they spawn primarily in Cold Creek, a small tributary of Lassen Creek, and in Buck Creek, a small tributary of Willow Creek. Upstream of its confluence with Cold Creek, a steep, rocky gorge apparently prevents spawners from ascending further up Lassen Creek. In Oregon, they formerly spawned in Thomas Creek and its tributaries and possibly in Cottonwood and Drews Creeks. Spawning migrations occurred in Willow and Lassen Creeks following snow melt and rain in the spring, usually during late March or in April. Spawning fish are rather pale looking, presumably from a life in murky water. Adults return to the lake following spawning. Young trout apparently spend one or more years in streams before moving down into Goose Lake. In the lake, the trout presumably feed on Goose Lake tui chub, fairy shrimp, and other super-abundant food. Growth appears rapid; scales from 6 spawning fish (27-48 cm TL) taken in 1967 indicated that they were all 3 years old (files, CDFG).
The life history of the stream-dwelling form has not been studied, but it is presumably similar to that other redband and rainbow trout that live in small, high-elevation streams. Surveys by CDFG (J. Weaver, 1999 files; Hendricks 1995) indicate that headwater streams have 4-5 length classes of trout, with a maximum size is around 24 cm TL. It appears that fish in their third summer are 9-12 cm TL. Spawning of lake fish was observed in May 14-15 in 2007, though spawning time is highly dependent on the water year and runoff (K. Ramey, CDFG, file report).

Habitat Requirements: 

Habitat Requirements: Goose Lake is a large alkaline lake that straddles the California border; it is shallow (mostly Most spawning areas are located in high-elevation sections of tributary streams and are up to 40-50 km from the lake. Prior to spawning, adults must have access from the lake to spawning areas. The spawning sites are reaches with clean gravels and suitable riparian cover for maintenance of cool water temperatures. Goose Lake redbands have been observed to spawn in lower reaches of Willow and Lassen Creeks when access to upstream areas is blocked (P. Chappell, pers. comm. 1995), but most spawning areas are upstream of the Highway 395 crossing.
Tate et al. (2005) evaluated temperatures in the two largest California tributaries to Goose Lake, Lassen and Willow Creeks. Lassen Creek, the larger of the creeks (1-2 cfs flows in late summer), became progressively warmer from headwaters to mouth, so that headwater reaches were typically The habitat requirements of the stream-dwelling form are similar to other populations of redband trout that occupy small, cool, high-elevation streams. The typical streams in the Warner Mountains are dominated by riffles with undercut banks but pools in meadow areas house most of the larger fish. Dense overhanging vegetation, especially willows, provide essential cover.
The environmental tolerances of Goose Lake redband trout have not been measured but it can be inferred that they can survive temperatures of 24°C for short periods on a regular basis, highly turbid, alkaline (pH 8-9) water, and dissolved oxygen levels at


Distribution: Goose Lake redband trout are endemic to Goose Lake and its major tributaries. In California, Lassen and Willow Creeks are their most important streams although they are also present in smaller streams (Pine, Cottonwood, Davis, Corral Creeks). In Oregon, they inhabit the extensive Thomas-Bauers Creek system as well as 12 smaller streams (Fall, Dry, Upper Drews, Lower Drews, Antelope, Muddy, Cottonwood, Deadman, Crane, Cogswell, Tandy, and Kelley Creeks) (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife 2005). Berg (1987) reported that Joseph, Parker, and East Creeks, tributaries of the upper Pit River in California, contained trout genetically similar to Goose Lake redband. Similar results for upper Pit River redbands were found by M. Stephens (2007). In addition, two populations in the eastern Warner Mountains above the Surprise Valley seem to be Goose Lake redbands, perhaps as the result of introductions (M. Stephens 2007).

Abundance Trends: 

Trends in Abundance: According to local history, in the 19th century the trout were once abundant enough in the lake so that they were harvested commercially and sold to logging camps. Conversations with local residents (P.B. Moyle, 1989) indicated that both sport and commercial fisheries existed for Goose Lake redband trout and that large runs occurred in local creeks, especially Thomas Creek in Oregon. The Goose Lake redband trout population historically has undergone major fluctuations, being depleted during series of dry years and recovering in wet periods. The lacustrine population was severely depleted again during the 1976-1977 drought, recovered during the wet early 1980s, and dropped precipitously during the 1986-1992 drought. The lake was also dry in 2010.
In California, Lassen Creek and its tributary Cold Creek have been the principal spawning streams. Numbers of spawning fish have fluctuated from ten or so individuals to several hundred, but the creek appears to have the potential to support perhaps 1,000 spawning fish under optimal flow conditions (E. Gerstung, pers. comm.1995). The only large run documented in recent years in Lassen Creek was in 1988 when several hundred spawners were present (J. Williams, unpubl. data), which suggests that there were fewer than 1,000 adults in Goose Lake, assuming many of the lake fish were immature one and two year old fish. In 1989, in the middle of the drought, only about a dozen fish appeared in the creek and there was no evidence of successful spawning.
Goose Lake dried up in 1992, but by March, 1997 a run was reported in Lassen Creek and spawning was reported in April in Cold Creek (M. Yamagiwa, USFS, pers. comm. 2007). In May 1999, S. B. Reid (pers. comm. 2007) observed “…big fish (40-70 cm) stacked four deep (literally) in the pools (estimated 75 at hwy 395).” This suggests that runs of several hundred fish had redeveloped in these tributaries and others.
The stream form of the Goose Lake redband trout apparently exists in about 20 small headwater streams. ODFW (2005) estimated that about 102,000 trout (+/-32%) age 1+ and older (0.14/m2) live in 13 Oregon streams under typical conditions; this number is presumably low compared to numbers that existed before the streams were degraded by grazing and other activities. Surveys for California streams made in 1988 and 1999, showed 600-1600 trout per km in Lassen Creek, which suggests that densities/numbers in California and Oregon streams are roughly comparable.
ODFW (2002) indicated that most Oregon redband trout streams are impaired to a greater or lesser degree, as result of accumulated effects from irrigation diversion dams, dewatering of streams, and generally poor habitat (from grazing, mining, and roads). Most of the streams also suffer from loss of connectivity to each other and to Goose Lake. Streams in California suffer from similar problems although the largest stream, Lassen Creek, seems to be in better condition than most. Thus overall the carrying capacity of Goose Lake streams is presumably a fraction of their historic carrying capacity. Since 1995, conditions for Goose Lake redband trout in California have steadily improved, because large sections of Lassen Creek and other streams have been protected from grazing and otherwise restored and as runs of lake fish have re-established themselves. Presumably headwater populations have increased as well, thanks to better management.


Description: Goose Lake redband trout are similar in appearance to other rainbow/redband trout. Their bodies are a yellowish to orange color with a brick-red lateral stripe. The dorsal, anal, and pelvic fins are white-tipped. Stream-dwelling adults retain parr marks, while lake-dwelling adults become silvery-grey in color. The Goose Lake redband trout has two ecological types: a lake-dwelling form that attains lengths of 45-50 cm TL and a stream-dwelling form that rarely grows larger than 25 cm TL. Behnke (1992) examined six specimens collected by J. O. Snyder in 1904 from Cottonwood Creek in the Oregon portion of the basin. These fish had 21-24 (mean, 23) gill rakers, 61-64 (mean, 63) vertebrae, and averaged 30 scale rows above the lateral line and 139 scales in the lateral series. See Behnke (2002) for color plates of both lake and stream forms.