Eastern Sierra Trout Project


The Eastern Sierra is well known for its majestic peaks, geographic isolation, and world-class angling for wild trout. This region often draws comparisons to Montana for its diverse year-round fishing opportunities in the Walker, Owens and Carson River watersheds. Unique stillwater fisheries like Lake Crowley, Twin Lakes and Convict Lake harbor trophy trout, and thousands of backcountry lakes in the High Sierra offer terrific fishing opportunities -- if

you can pry the beta from tightlipped local anglers. Myriad mountain streams with trout willing to eat dry flies flow from gorgeous public lands backcountry. Eastern Sierra waters host rare and vibrantly colored California Golden trout, Lahontan and Paiute cutthroats as well as trophy-sized wild rainbows, cuttbows and brown trout. 

The Eastern Sierra is truly an angler's paradise.

As good as it is already, fishing in the Eastern Sierra can be even better. A majority of the landscape, especially on public lands, has been degraded to some degree by more than a century of lightly-managed resource use and development. Drought and climate change threaten native trout restoration efforts. Invasive species have reduced productive habitat for cold water fish.

Trout Unlimited’s goals for the Eastern Sierra are to protect high quality habitat, restore the iconic native trout of the region, support effective and responsive management of the resource, and ensure sustainable recreational fisheries that include both wild and stocked trout. To achieve these goals, we work directly with state and federal resource agencies and local anglers to better protect headwaters and improve management of our public lands and waters, and support  restoration and angler education projects from Reno to Ridgecrest.


TU's work in the Eastern Sierra is based on four primary objectives:

  1. Protect fish and game habitat on public lands
  2. Restore native trout waters
  3. Enhance wild trout fisheries
  4. Sustain our work through outreach and education


Protect fish and game habitat on public lands

  1. Forest Plan Revisions. The U.S. Forest Service is updating the "master" management plans for national forests around the country. Three of the first national forests to undertake this process are in the Sierra Nevada: the Sierra, Sequoia, and Inyo. All three of these forests manage part of the Eastern Sierra. The Forest Plan Revision process offers opportunities for sportsmen and women to engage in shaping management direction and priorities to better protect and restore habitat and fishing and hunting opportunities in the Eastern Sierra. Our Eastern Sierra program staff is working hard to ensure revised Forest Plans conserve high quality fish and game habitat and enhance access for fishing and hunting. 

  2. Travel Management.

    Public lands agencies are required to manage their systems of roads and trails to protect resources and provide reasonable access. The U.S. Forest Service adopted new regulations in 2012 that guide this management on national forests through a required Travel Analysis process. TU is working to help sportsmen and women engage in this process, by helping to identify poorly maintained or badly sited routes that are degrading aquatic systems; sharing this information with the sporting community; and helping prioritize routes for improvement or decommissioning based on their habitat impacts and importance for access.
  3. Grazing Management. TU’s science and field staff work with resource agencies and grazing interests to help determine best practices for rangeland stewardship, as well as identify areas of especially high habitat values where extra care is required to conserve resources and sporting opportunities. We also help measure ecosystem response to grazing to best determine what impacts, if any, exist. For example, in 2013 TU’s collaborative “Stream Team” performed an in-depth stream and meadow habitat assessment in the Golden Trout Wilderness in the Inyo National Forest. This assessment will inform management of grazing practices and allotment designations set to occur in 2015 in the historic range of the California golden trout (Kern Plateau Grazing Allotment Analysis, Inyo NF).

Restore native trout waters

The Eastern Sierra harbors several threatened trout species, including Lahontan and Paiute cutthroat and the California golden trout. Recovering native trout populations in the headwaters is one of TU's core conservation strategies, and we are currently implementing several on-the-ground projects to promote this recovery.  These projects include: (1) expanding Lahontan cutthroat trout presence in new reaches of the West Walker River headwater tributaries; (2) improving water quality and quantity by working collaboratively to restore meadows and prioritize motorized route restoration in the Walker River basin; (3) helping implement grazing exclusion projects in the Golden Trout Wilderness; and (4) continuing to support the Paiute Cutthroat Trout Restoration Project in Silver King Creek.

Enhance wild trout fisheries   

The Eastern Sierra has several world-class, state-designated Wild Trout waters, including Hot Creek, the East Carson River and the lower Owens River. TU is working to sustain and enhance these fisheriesand to establish new wild trout waters through stream restoration projects and angler advocacy. Improving such angling opportunities helps disperse fishing pressure, improve angling success, and support the regional economy.

Sustain our work through outreach and education

The Eastern Sierra Trout Project (1) connects with local sportsmen, youth, and landowners/community members to establish a network of angler-stewards for Eastern Sierra streams; (2) galvanizes this network by facilitating opportunities to participate in research and restoration projects; (3) strengthens TU member involvement by promoting cross-chapter collaboration to support multiple conservation campaigns; and (4) partners with existing organizations and programs working for similar outcomes. For example, TU helps organize and host outreach and education events such as the Silver Lake Fly Fishing Academy, the East Walker River Clean Up with the Fishin’ Mission Foundation, and the Annual Lower Owens River Clean Up with the California Waterfowl Association.


California Golden Trout Project

TU is a founding partner in the California Gold Trout Project (CGTP), a collaborative program which has protected and restored critical habitat for California's state fish for a decade. Beginning in 1989, TU's South Coast Chapter undertook seven large stream restoration projects on tributaries of the Kern and South Fork Kern Rivers to benefit three species of native trout: the Kern River rainbow, the Volcano Creek golden trout, and the Little Kern golden trout. This effort led to formation of the California Golden Trout Project in 2005 with the California Department of Fish and Game (now Wildlife), the U.S. Forest Service, Trout Unlimited, California Trout, and the Federation of Fly Fishers. TU provides the Volunteer Coordinator for the project, who helps organize volunteers in the summer season to assist with field projects such as erecting or maintaining fencing to protect golden trout habitat from grazing impacts. The CGTP's progress in these efforts was part of the basis for a formal determination by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2011 that listing the California golden trout under the Endangered Species Act is not warranted at this time.

Backcountry habitat protection

In 2009, TU's years of work to identify and permanently protect prime habitat in the headwaters of the West Walker and Owens rivers paid off with passage of the Eastern Sierra and San Gabriel Mountains Wild Heritage Act as part an omnibus public lands bill, which designated 470,000 acres of new Wilderness and new Wild and Scenic River segments along the Eastern Sierra (including a portion of the upper Owens River). These designations will better conserve the outstanding fishing and hunting values in this region, and help sustain the ecological function of alpine meadows and other resources critical to water supply and quality for downstream uses -- including fishing.

Staff Contact

Jessica Strickland
California Field Coordinator

Author of this Page

Sam Davidson
Communications Director, California/Nevada

Hot Creek photo courtesy of Jim Stimson Photography.


Owens River
West Walker River
East Walker River
East Carson River
West Carson River
Hot Creek
Silver King Creek
Kern Plateau

California Golden Trout

Lahontan Cutthroat Trout

Paiute Cutthroat Trout

Wild Rainbow Trout

Wild Rainbow Trout

Climate Change
Roads + Development

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