Western Native Trout Challenge
A new bucket list challenge you can navigate at your own pace
By Therese Thompson
Western Native Trout Initiative Coordinator
Anglers in Utah and throughout the West can now sign up to participate in the adventure of a lifetime! The Western Native Trout Challenge is a new lifetime goal opportunity "aka a bucket list item" that you navigate at your own pace. By participating in the challenge, you will learn about native trout and where to find them, earn bragging rights, rewards and help the Western Native Trout Initiative (WNTI) conserve 21 native trout and char species in 12 states.
Utah has three trout species in the challenge: Bonneville cutthroat trout, Yellowstone cutthroat trout (pictured) and Colorado River cutthroat trout. Photo courtesy of USFS.
The team at WNTI spent more than three years developing this special program with fish and wildlife state agencies, including the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, to carefully select the locations and trout species you can catch responsibly thoroughout the 12 participating states.
It can be said that the "lure of the West" is native trout. They are the embodiment of the Western character — its eternal struggle and triumph of adaptation to a life of water in a dry land. The wild rivers, the alpine lakes, and the trickling arroyos — the fiber of Western geography — are the habitat for the redband, the cutthroat and the Gila. The landscape and lore of the West is that of the trout.
The Western Native Trout Challenge invites anglers to help celebrate this legacy by inviting them to catch 18 native trout and char species throughout 12 states (at the master angler level). Participants can soak in the beauty of the land and share the thrill of the catch with family and friends in a series of journeys at fishing destinations.
Twelve partnering state fish and wildlife agencies in the western U.S. are working with WNTI, along with the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Trout Unlimited, to launch and support the challenge. The purpose of the challenge is to strengthen angler awareness of these unique native species, help anglers understand what is being done to conserve native trout and grow the community of trout fishing aficionados.
Adults 18+ pay a one-time fee of $25 and get maps, information, rewards, beautiful scenery and fishing adventures all while learning about trout species, best locations and conservation. Kids 17 and under play free. For every $25 program registration fee, $23 goes toward helping to conserve these species. This challenge happens at your own pace, so you can complete it over a summer, over a few years or in a lifetime.
There are three levels to the Western Native Trout Challenge:
- 1. Expert Caster: Six trout species across four states. No duplicate species across states. Anglers pick which species they catch in which states. Receive an artist-rendered certificate and a ball cap.
- 2. Advanced Caster: 12 trout species across eight states. No duplicate species across states. Anglers pick which species they catch in which states. Receive an artist-rendered certificate and a gold medallion.
- 3. Master Caster: 18 trout species across 12 states. No duplicate species across states. Anglers pick which species they catch in which states. Receive an artist-rendered certificate and a platinum medallion.
Utah alone has three trout species in the challenge: Bonneville cutthroat trout, Yellowstone cutthroat trout and Colorado River cutthroat trout. So, for example, you can catch three species in Utah and one in each of three other states, and you'll receive the Expert Caster level certification and ball cap. You cannot "grandfather in" any trout you caught before the program launch in May 2019.
We hope you will join our community of trout lovers, and get in on an adventure of a lifetime!
It's all in one cool place: visit WesternNativeTroutChallenge.org to register to play, and get maps and species information to plan your trip!
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The Western Native Trout Initiative (WNTI) is a program of the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) and a nationally recognized partnership under the National Fish Habitat Partnership program that works to cooperatively across 12 Western states to conserve (protect, restore, and recover) 21 native trout and char species across their historic range. Since its inception in 2006, WNTI has directed more than $29 million in federal, public and private funds to serve 139 priority native trout conservation projects. WNTI and partners have removed 87 barriers to fish passage, reconnected or improved 1,130 miles of native trout habitat and put in place 30 protective fish barriers to conserve important native trout populations.