The Characteristics Of The Rainbow Trout.

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The rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), also called the redband trout, is a species of salmonid native to tributaries of the Pacific Ocean, in Asia, and North America, as well as much of the central, western, eastern, and especially the northern portions of the United States.

The species has been introduced for food or sport to at least 45 countries, and every continent except Antarctica. In some of these locations, such as Australia and South America, they have had very serious negative impacts on upland native fish species, either by eating them, out competing them or transmitting contagious diseases. Physical characteristicsThe freshwater form is called "rainbow trout", based on the broad red band along their sides. Steelhead are exactly the same species. However, the difference is anatomy. After going to sea, their color changes, including loss of the red band. They stay at sea for 1-4 years, and return to fresh water to spawn.

Rainbows stay in fresh water their whole lives. Redbands have larger spots and darker colors than rainbows and sometimes have cutthroat-like slash marks, but not the cutthroat's longer maxilla or hyoid.

The world record rainbow was a 43.6 pound caught from the shore at Lake Diefenbaker, Saskatchewan in June 2007.

Most steelhead populations in Oregon, Washington, and California have been listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act as either threatened or endangered species. This decision has been controversial, however, particularly among the community of anglers who fish for them, since the freshwater form is typically not considered to be endangered, while being technically the same species. However, steelhead face different mortality pressures not faced by resident rainbows. These mortality sources often involve their migration, ocean survival, and harvest.

This sub-population is believed to have adapted to higher water temperatures and to natal streams not being suitable for spawning every year, depending on weather variability and other factors.

It has been named "southern steelhead" and is the focus of major restoration efforts. "Summer-run steelhead" migrate between May and October, before their reproductive organs are fully mature. They mature in freshwater before spawning in the spring.


Rainbow trout have a varied diet. They are predators, eating any smaller fish from nearly the time they are born. Insects make up a large portion of the diet, along with crayfish and other crustaceans, some lake dwelling species may become planktonic feeders. Trout of all ages will eat nearly anything they can grab, in contrast with the legendary, selective nature the fish often gets.

They are near the top of the food chain in most freshwater environments. However they are lower on the rung of other freshwater predators such as pike, muskie, lake trout, and Chinook salmon.

Rainbows will take fish up to and over 1/3 of their length and larger. However they are not quite as carnivorous or aggressive as the brown trout or lake trout, which is actually a char. The rule of thumb is that rainbows consume more fish and fewer insects as they grow, but insects continue to be a part of the diet in most all populations.

As food

Rainbow trout and steelhead are popular in Western cuisine and are both wild caught and farmed for food. It has tender flesh and a mild, somewhat nutty flavor. However, farmed trout and those taken from certain lakes have a pronounced earthy flavor which many people find unappealing; many shoppers therefore make it a point to ascertain the source of the fish and prefer buying Steelhead that are farmed, primarily in British Columbia and in Chile.

Steelhead meat is pink like that of salmon, and is more flavorful than the light-colored meat of rainbow trout.


Rainbow trout and steelhead are both highly desired sport fish. There are some tribal commercial fisheries for steelhead in the Puget Sound, the Washington Coast and in the Columbia River. Most rainbow trout and steelhead harvest in the United States is supported by hatchery production.

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