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Rainbow Trout Facts, Information, and Habitat

There may be no place in nature more rhythmic & peaceful than a rolling stream. It is here that the beautiful Rainbow Trout makes its home.

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 Expedition is proud to present information, interesting facts, habitat info, fishing tips, and photos of the Rainbow Trout.

Rainbow Trout Facts, Information, Photos, Habitat Details, Fishing Tips, and Artwork

Rainbow Trout Information

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.

Small sketch of a rainbow trout.

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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.

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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.
Painting of a swimming rainbow trout.

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  • 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.

Rainbow Trout Fishing Tips

  • Fly-fishing is the most popular fishing method for rainbow trout.
  • Steelhead trout are oftentimes caught by casting and trolling spoons.
  • One of the most effective ways of catching a rainbow trout is to use live bait, such as an egg sac or a worm.
  • There are two main pole choices: the fly rod, and the ultra light rod.
  • The best way to carry your tackle when fishing is in a fishing vest.
  • Dress appropriately when trout fishing. Most fishermen tend to wade into the cold water to get a better cast, so hip or chest waders are suggested.
  • Each state has varying fishing regulations. It is important to educate yourself on them before going out to fish.
  • Remember to acquire a fishing permit if taking up trout fishing. Fishing without a permit is illegal and could result in a fine.
  • Look at your state’s regulations to find out when you are allowed to fish.
  • Most states have a length limit for their fish. If the fish you caught does not measure the minimum, it is required that you let it go. There are sometimes maximum limits for certain fish as well.
  • Most states also have daily limits, or the amount of a certain fish you can keep in one day.
  • A fun hobby for off duty fisherman is fly-tying. You can make your own homemade flies to use next time you go fishing!
  • Most states have parks and campgrounds dedicated to trout fishing.
  • Mix ground dog or cat food with flour and water to create simple homemade trout bait for your fishing trip.

A distinct characteristic of the rainbow trout is an innate desire to return to spawn in the same stream as it was hatched. The trout in the above video is doing just that.

Close up photo of a rainbow trout being held by a fisherman.

Rainbow Trout all have a pinkish band that runs the length of their body and a silver underside that fades to pearl white.

trout coat rack

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A rainbow trout swimming underwater.

Rainbow trout prefer cool streams with gravel bottoms and natural cover.

A fisherman showing off a caught rainbow trout.

The largest Rainbow Trout on record weighed 57 pounds. This one isn't nearly that big, however.

A group of rainbow trout swimming in a stream.

Rainbow trout are members of the salmon family.

A rainbow trout in shallow water.

The rainbow trout has been introduced to every continent except Antarctica.

Rainbow trout being held by a fisherman.

Dress appropriately when trout fishing. Most fishermen tend to wade into the cold water to get a better cast, so hip or chest waders are suggested.

A rainbow trout in shallow water.

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.

A rainbow trout next to a fishing pole on the grass

Fly-fishing is the most popular fishing method for rainbow trout.

A rainbow trout on a fishing line.

Some trout predators include other fish, kingfishers, herons, eagles, raccoons, and, of course, fishermen.

Rainbow Trout Information, Facts, Photos and Artwork
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