Arizona State Fish – Found Nowhere Else in the World!

Oct 11, 2023 | 3 minute read
Reading Time: 3 minutes

You can’t find the state fish of Arizona anywhere else in the world. The Apache Trout is one of two species of Trout that are native to state waters. At the moment, they are under threat. What happened to the Apache Trout? Let’s find out all about it.

The Story about Arizona State Fish

Apache Trout swimming with a rocky bottom behind the fish

Apache Trout became the state fish of Arizona in 1986, when the fish entered the “vulnerable” stage. The cause? Non-native Trout stocking, as well as early methods of livestock grazing, timber harvesting, and other land use that impacted the Apache’s habitat.

During the late 1800s, Apache Trout were present in more than 820 miles of streams in the White Mountains. Unfortunately, locals overfished the Apache Trout. Some historic accounts and pictures show settlers harvesting hundreds of them in a single trip.

Stocking of Other Trout Species

The wildlife agencies began stocking other non-native species of Trout into these streams in the 1900s. Their goal was to increase fishing and food opportunities for the fast-growing population of Arizona. What they didn’t expect is that these fish, Rainbow, Brook, Cutthroat, and Brown Trout, would compete against Apache for limited food and cover. In addition to that, they also began cross-breeding with the area’s two native species, Gila and Apache Trout.

By the mid-1950s, Apache Trout went from inhabiting 820 miles of stream to only 30 miles. The White Mountain Apache Tribe began the first conservation efforts in 1955. The fish was listed as endangered in 1969. After that, it progressed the “vulnerable” stage in 1986. In 1996, Apache became “critically endangered,” which is the last stage before extinction from the wilderness. However, in the early 2000s, the Apache Trout became one of the first fish species to be down-listed from endangered to threatened.

At the moment, there are eight different Trout species in Arizona. The Apache Trout is one of the two Trout species that are native to Arizona’s streams, along with the Gila Trout. Today, you can only find Apache in the streams of forests on reservation land and the lakes of the White Mountains, near the New Mexico border. 

Apache Trout – The Looks

Arizona's state fish, Apache Trout, swimming on a rocky bottom
“Apache trout (Oncorhynchus apache)” by USFWS Headquarters is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Arizona’s state fish have an easily-recognizable look. Their bodies are usually olive-yellow, with a golden or yellow belly, and black spots spaced evenly across their bodies and fins. White or orange shades cover their fins and heads, and they have two black spots. When it comes to their size, they can grow over 20 inches in length and weigh up to 5 pounds in hatcheries. However, they are much smaller in the wilderness. The habitats they usually live in are very small and, because of that, they are usually less than 9 inches long.

Arizona State Fish – A Natural Heritage

Arizona state flag waiving in the air

Apace Trout is a unique fish, found nowhere else in the world. It’s an important native fish resource and a part of Arizona’s natural heritage. In order for Apache Trout to be considered recovered, there needs to be at least 30 self-sustaining populations established within the fish’s historic range.

Thanks to the efforts of the Arizona Fish and Game Department, the Apache still manages to survive against all odds.

Now, over to you… Do you think that the Apache Trout will manage to survive? Do you know any other cool facts about this fish that we haven’t included in the article? Let us know in the comments below!

Leave a reply
NameRequired *
Your comment Required *