You may be wondering, what exactly is the Western Native Trout Challenge? Some may say the adventure of a lifetime. The Western Native Trout Challenge was started by the Western Native Trout Initiative (WNTI) in an effort to celebrate and preserve 20 native trout species in 12 participating western United States and to celebrate the western legacy while doing so. This challenge requires catching 18 of the 20 species currently on the list and can be completed over the course of a lifetime and only has a few simple rules.


Rules of Engagement

Photo courtesy of Flylords team member @patperry

The first step is to  join the Western Native Trout Challenge via their online registration. After watching a short presentation on aquatic invasive species and submitting the $25 participation fee (free for youth 17 and under), you’ll be fully enrolled and one step closer to completing the Western Native Trout Challenge. As you plan your adventure of a lifetime, be sure to remember to purchase a fishing license for the states you plan to fish and be cognizant of local regulations. Not only will this help you avoid hefty fines, you’ll also be supporting conservation efforts throughout the participating states. 

A high quality Alaskan Arctic Char

To record each catch, simply photograph the fish in their native or historic waters and send them back on their way. Practicing proper catch and release techniques will ensure generations to come can have the same opportunity to pursue these beautiful, native species. After taking a photo of your catch, you can certify it through the  WNTI by submitting the photo along with a description of each trout or char as well as the time and place that it was caught. 

Grip and grins are welcome but the photo only needs to be of the fish. The WNTI will provide additional details on submitting your catch after completing registration. Once you’ve registered and purchased your licenses, you’ll be well on your way to earning your first certification and prize in the Western Native Trout Challenge. The best part? There’s no time limit and you can spend the rest of your life completing this challenge. A full list of rules can be found on the Western Native Trout Challenge website.

Challenge Achievement Levels

The most difficult achievement level entails catching 18 unique species across all 12 states. If you’re thinking that sounds overwhelming, there’s still plenty you can do to participate in the Western Native Trout Challenge. As you’ll see below, there are 3 levels of the challenge with increasing levels of difficulty. Whether you reach Expert, Advanced, or Master Level, finishing any of these challenges would be a notable accomplishment for any fly angler. The Western Native Trout Challenge website has detailed maps outlining where these species can be found in each of their native ranges making it a little more accessible.

Expert Caster

To achieve the first level of the Western Native Trout Challenge, anglers must catch and photograph six unique species across at least four of the twelve states. Anglers who complete this level of the challenge will be awarded with a commemorative certificate and a baseball cap. Like the next two levels, the biggest reward of the Western Native Trout Challenge is the adventure and journey throughout the west.

Advanced Caster

If you’re lucky and skilled enough to make it to the Expert Caster, you can set your sights on a new goal, the Advanced Caster. To achieve this level, anglers must catch and photograph 12 unique species across at least 8 states. Navigate this challenge and you’ll be rewarded with a commemorative certificate and a medallion. 

You can’t always be perfect.

Master Caster

If you’ve surpassed both the Expert Caster and Advanced Caster levels of achievement in the Western Native Trout Challenge, you’ve surely put some miles on the road and spent many a day pursuing these special fish. If 12 species and 8 states weren’t enough in the Advanced Caster level, anglers can achieve the highest mark in the challenge, the Master Caster, by catching and photographing 18 species across all 12 states. Similar to the Advanced Caster level, anglers will be awarded with a commemorative certificate and a medallion. Finishing this level of the challenge will surely provide any angler with countless memories of journeys taken and fish landed on top of the awards.

Species by State

Now that you know the rules and how to register, you’re likely wondering what species qualify for the challenge. The following list outlines the species that can be caught in each of the 12 states with several species that are native to multiple states. Fish that can only be caught in one state are denoted with an asterisk (*). The list currently includes 20 species and there will be 3 additional species added to the challenge in coming years including the Paiute Cutthroat Trout, Greenback Cutthroat Trout, and Kokanee Salmon as conservation progresses. 

Flylords team member @olleyeh with an Alaskan Lake Trout
Alaska
  • Alaskan Lake Trout*
  • Alaskan Rainbow Trout*
  • Arctic Char*
  • Arctic Grayling*
  • Coastal Cutthroat Trout
  • Dolly Varden*
Flylords team member @olleyeh with a colored up Dolly Varden
Arizona
  • Apache Trout*
  • Gila Trout
California
  • California Golden Trout*
  • Coastal Cutthroat Trout
  • Eagle Lake Rainbow Trout*
  • Kern River Rainbow*
  • Lahontan Cutthroat Trout
  • Little Kern Golden Trout*
  • Redband Trout
Colorado
  • Colorado River Cutthroat Trout
  • Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout
An Idaho Bull Trout. Photo courtesy of Flylords team member @Landen_Bailey.
Idaho
  • Bonneville Cutthroat Trout
  • Bull Trout
  • Redband Cutthroat Trout
  • Westslope Cutthroat Trout
  • Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout
Montana
  • Westslope Cutthroat Trout
  • Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout
Nevada
  • Bonneville Cutthroat Trout
  • Bull Trout
  • Lahontan Cutthroat
  • Redband Trout
New Mexico
  • Gila Trout
Flylords team member @patperry with an Oregan Redband Trout
Oregon
  • Bull Trout
  • Coastal Cutthroat Trout
  • Lahontan Cutthroat Trout
  • Redband Cutthroat Trout
  • Westslope Cutthroat Trout
Utah
  • Bonneville Cutthroat Trout
  • Colorado River Cutthroat Trout
  • Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout
Washington
  • Coastal Cutthroat Trout
  • Redband Trout
  • Westslope Cutthroat Trout
Wyoming
  • Bonneville Cutthroat Trout
  • Colorado River Cutthroat Trout
  • Westslope Cutthroat Trout
  • Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout

Ethical Angling

Alaskan Rainbow Trout. Is there anything better?

As fly anglers, we typically take great pleasure in the individual fish that we catch and what’s better than honoring the native species in the states above. Be sure to practice ethical angling with proper catch and release techniques including trout handling techniques and using barbless hooks

What level will you become?

As you can see, the Western Native Trout Challenge is truly the adventure of a lifetime for trout anglers. With opportunities to achieve various levels of the challenge in a number of different states makes it more accessible. Don’t be fooled, it’s called a challenge for a reason and the list of finishers isn’t very long.

If you think you’re up for the challenge, head over to the Western Native Trout Challenge website and register today.  If you have any additional questions about the challenge send your emails to challengeinfo@westernnativetrout.org and the Western Native Trout Initiative will be happy to help you out. So what will you become? An Expert, Advanced, or Master level caster?

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