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Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) are renowned for their attractive and colorful patterned skin and their remarkable ability to swim swiftly upstream. They are a very popular game fish in North America. American

Rainbow Trout are native to rivers, streams, and other fresh waters west of the Rocky Mountains. However, because of their popularity as a game fish, they have been introduced into streams and lakes all over North America.

Rainbow trout get their name from the beautiful colors that shine on their skin. Coloration of the rainbow trout varies widely in relation to sex, habitat, and maturity. Colors on the back of a trout can range from brown, to olive, to dark blue. All rainbow trout have a pinkish band running the length of their body, and a silver underside that fades to pearl white. There are small black spots on their back, fins, and tail.

Trout are members of the salmon family and therefore can grow relatively large. The biggest rainbow trout ever caught was in Canada in the year 2009. The fish weighed 48 pounds. An average mature trout is around 16 inches in length, and weighs between 2 to 8 pounds. Rainbow trout that migrate to larger bodies of water, like the Great Lakes or oceans, can grow much larger and are referred to as “Steel-Heads.”

A distinct characteristic of the rainbow trout is an innate desire to return to spawn in the same stream as they were hatched. During spawning season in the spring, a rainbow trout will find a secluded cove or inlet. A female will dig a depression in the gravel called a “redd” where she will lay her eggs. After a male fertilizes them, the female will bury the eggs in the redd for protection during incubation, and then leaves the nest. If the temperature of the water is cool enough, the eggs will hatch about 21 days after they are laid. Only a few of the 200 to 8,000 eggs that were spawned will live to be adults. The average lifespan for a rainbow trout is 4 to 6 years in the wild.

Rainbow Trout Facts

  • Rainbow trout are predators, and will eat almost anything that they can catch, including insects, small fish, and crustaceans. They will also eat fish eggs, including the eggs of other rainbow trout, and will scavenge on leftover carcasses as well.
  • Trout begin spawning at the age of 3 or 4.
  • Spawning season for rainbow trout occurs in the spring.
  • The rainbow trout has been introduced to every continent except Antarctica.
  • Rainbow trout are part of a group known as black-spotted trout (due to the black spots on their bodies). They may interbreed with other black-spotted trout, like Mexican golden or Gila trout, when located in the same area.
  • The temperature tolerance of rainbow trout is from 32 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Their ideal range is between 55 and 60.
  • The color of rainbow trout meat will vary with diet and environmental conditions.
  • Rainbow trout meat can range in color from white to dark red. Steelhead meat is pink like salmon, dark red or orange meat may indicate the trout has been farm fed a supplemental diet.
  • Rainbow trout have been commercially farmed since 1870. The largest producer of farmed trout is Chile.
  • Like salmon, rainbow trout are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.
  • A female trout can spawn from 200 to 8,000 eggs during season.
  • Rainbow trout are members of the salmon family.
  • The largest rainbow trout on record weighed 48 pounds. Stories have been told of larger fish caught off the record, of course.
  • One distinct characteristic of rainbow trout is their innate desire to return to spawn in the same stream in which they were hatched.
  • Some trout predators include other fish, kingfishers, herons, eagles, and raccoons.

Rainbow Trout Habitat

Trout are easily adapted to various aquatic environments. Rainbow trout prefer cool (55-60 degree) freshwater streams with gravel bottoms and natural cover, but are capable of adapting to saltwater when necessary.

What Do Rainbow Trout Eat? 

Rainbow trout are surface feeders, and eat aquatic and terrestrial insects, fish eggs, and minnows. Trout living in large lakes and oceans are bottom feeders and eat mollusks, crustaceans, and worms.

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