In the early 1970’s, the California Fish and Game Commission (CFGC) adopted a Wild Trout Policy that provides for the designation of "aesthetically pleasing and environmentally productive" streams and lakes to be managed exclusively for wild trout, where the trout populations are managed with appropriate regulations to be "largely unaffected by the angling process."
Additional responsibilities were given to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Heritage and Wild Trout Program with the passage of SB 192 (the Trout and Steelhead Conservation and Management Planning Act of 1979), which has been superceded by SB 384 (2007). SB 384 (Fish and Game Code Section 1726 et seq.) requires the Heritage and Wild Trout Program to conduct a statewide inventory of trout streams and lakes, conduct ongoing evaluations of designated and candidate wild trout fisheries, and annually recommend to the CFGC 25 miles of streams and one lake for designation as a Wild Trout Water.
All designated Wild Trout Waters must meet the following CFGC Wild Trout Policy criteria:
- Open to public angling
- Able to support, with appropriate angling regulations, wild trout populations of sufficient magnitude to provide satisfactory trout catches in terms of number or size of fish.
- Domestic strains of catchable-size trout shall not be planted but suitable hatchery-produced wild or semi-wild strains may be planted in designated waters, but only if necessary to supplement natural reproduction.
The CFGC recognized the importance of high quality habitat for the maintenance of wild trout populations and the Policy states: "All necessary actions, consistent with State law, shall be taken to prevent adverse impact by land or water development projects affecting designated Wild Trout Waters."
Designated Heritage Trout Waters must meet the criteria to qualify as a Wild Trout Water, along with the following additional criteria:
- Only waters supporting populations that best exemplify indigenous strains of native trout within their historic drainages may qualify for designation
- Heritage Trout Waters shall be able to provide anglers with the opportunity to catch native trout consistent with the conservation of the native trout present