El Dorado County Angler Becomes 500th to Complete CDFW’s Heritage Trout Challenge

CDFW photo: CDFW’s Lee Duckwall, left, and Gabriel Singer, right, present El Dorado County resident Scott Lyons with the 500th Heritage Trout Challenge certificate of recognition.

by California Department of Fish & Wildlife

Video for the Heritage Trout Challenge Here: https://youtu.be/lNfHpHhGSO8

The California Fish and Game Commission and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) have recognized Scott Lyons, an El Dorado County resident, retired educator and lifelong angler, with having completed California’s 500th Heritage Trout Challenge.

In reaching the Heritage Trout Challenge milestone, Lyons, 57, caught six of 11 qualifying native California trout species within their historic watersheds. They were the California golden trout, the McCloud River redband trout, a steelhead from the Trinity River, a coastal cutthroat trout, a Goose Lake redband trout and a Lahontan cutthroat trout.

The California Fish and Game Commission established the Heritage Trout Challenge in 2004 to promote the ecological and aesthetic values of California’s native trout species and their historic habitats, build support for native trout restoration efforts, and encourage anglers to explore new waters and experience California’s diverse fishing opportunities.

CDFW administers the Heritage Trout Challenge and receives 20 to 30 applications a year. CDFW distinguishes “heritage trout” from other trout as those trout species native to California living within their historic range. Successful anglers who catch any six of the 11 qualifying species and document their catch with photographs receive a hat and a colorful, personalized certificate featuring the art of renowned fish illustrator Joseph Tomelleri. Each certificate contains a representation of the six species of trout caught along with the dates and locations.

“I had never caught a golden trout until I undertook the Heritage Trout Challenge. I had never caught a steelhead,” Lyons said. “I had heard about these mythical fish. I had fished all of my life, but I didn’t really have the appreciation for them that the Heritage Trout Challenge allowed me to explore. The more I opened the door, the more I started exploring, and the more excited I got about the different kinds of fish.”

Lyons has completed the Heritage Trout Challenge seven times. The six fish documented on his milestone 500th certificate were caught over a period of 14 years, though Lyons noted he has completed some of his previous Heritage Trout Challenges in less than 12 months.

“The great thing about this program is there is no time limit,” he said. “Once you start, you can take as long as you want. The key is to have a really good picture. The beauty and the fun is going to all the spots that hold all these fish.”

While Lyons was able to drive to Heenan Lake in Alpine County for his Lahontan cutthroat trout, Lyons and his wife, Brenda, hiked 16 miles round trip to catch his California golden trout in the southern Sierra.

“I had been to (Heenan Lake) four times and had been shut out. It’s kind of a fickle lake,” Lyons said. “I was 0 for 4 but I kept trying and, finally, on my fifth trip to the lake I laid into a beautiful, Lahontan cutthroat trout. It was in just a gorgeous setting and an easy heritage trout water you can drive right to.”

A fly angler, Lyons caught and released all his fish using barbless hooks. Though, the Heritage Trout Challenge permits catch and keep and the use of bait and other artificial lures where Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations allow.

Lyons grew up in the Bay Area and has lived in El Dorado County for 30 years, retiring from a career there as an elementary and middle school teacher, principal and superintendent.

Lyons credits his uncle and grandfather in Minnesota for igniting his passion for fishing as a child during family visits to the Midwest. His father taught him to fly fish and instilled a love for the Sierra, which remains among Lyons’ favorite places to fish.

“I’d always thought brook trout, brown trout and rainbow trout were the trout of the Sierra, and I didn’t realize the diversity that California has with its 11 native (trout) species,” he said. “As a guy that loves California and loves traveling throughout California, I couldn’t believe that I’d never been to some of these spots.”

Learn more at the Heritage Trout Challenge web page, which includes resources for completing the challenge and a new online application and 

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