Beginning in 1988, the Chinook salmon embryo (CHSE-214) cell line was used to isolate a novel virus from spawning adult trout in the state of California, USA. Termed the cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii) virus (CTV), the small, round virus was not associated with disease, but was subsequently found to be present in an increasing number of trout populations in the western USA, likely by a combination of improved surveillance activities and the shipment of infected eggs to new locations. Here, we report that the full length genome of the 1988 Heenan Lake isolate of CTV consisted of 7269 nucleotides of positive-sense, single-stranded RNA beginning with a 5' untranslated region (UTR), followed by three open reading frames (ORFs), a 3' UTR and ending in a polyA tail. The genome of CTV was similar in size and organization to that of Hepatitis E virus (HEV) with which it shared the highest nucleotide and amino acid sequence identities. Similar to the genomes of human, rodent or avian hepeviruses, ORF 1 encoded a large, non-structural polyprotein that included conserved methyltransferase, protease, helicase and polymerase domains, while ORF 2 encoded the structural capsid protein and ORF 3 the phosphoprotein. Together, our data indicated that CTV was clearly a member of the family Hepeviridae, although the level of amino acid sequence identity with the ORFs of mammalian or avian hepeviruses (13-27%) may be sufficiently low to warrant the creation of a novel genus. We also performed a phylogenetic analysis using a 262. nt region within ORF 1 for 63 isolates of CTV obtained from seven species of trout reared in various geographic locations in the western USA. While the sequences fell into two genetic clades, the overall nucleotide diversity was low (less than 8.4%) and many isolates differed by only 1-2 nucleotides, suggesting an epidemiological link. Finally, we showed that CTV was able to form persistently infected cultures of the CHSE-214 cell line that may have use in research on the biology or treatment of hepevirus infections of humans or other animals.