Post date: Monday, March 5, 2012 - 20:42
Updated date: 2/6/17

The rainbow trout is one of the most popular game fishes in the world.  It's been introduced almost worldwide, and they are a fun fish to catch.


Rainbow trout have a lot of variety in how they look, depending on where they are found and how old they are. In general, rainbow trout have small heads with well-developed teeth on the roof of their mouth, and no teeth at the base of their tongue They have an adipose fin and black spots on their back, sides and fins. Rainbow trout are silvery fish with a pink to reddish band along their lateral line. The tail is slightly forked - more so in younger fish. When they are spawning (laying their sperm or eggs) the red stripe on their sides becomes darker and their bodies become a smoky blue colour. Rainbows are native to the area west of the Rocky Mountains, but have been widely stocked throughout the entire world. Here in the midwest, they are mostly encountered in put-and-take fisheries, as they cannot reproduce successfully.


Rainbows prefer cool, clear streams and lakes. They also live in warm water lakes only if clear, oxygenated water is available. They seem to prefer faster and colder water than browns do.  Rainbow's feed on aquatic and terrestrial insects along with small fish. For anglers, the most effective baits are worms, salmon eggs, Powerbait, corn, cheese, marshmallows, or artificial lures and flies. The number one key to successful trout fishing is to use light line (4-6 pound test), small hooks, and small sinkers. Stocked lake rainbows are easily caught on miniature marshmallows floated on very light line 18 inches above a slip-sinker. Flyfishermen find the stream-stocked fish slightly more cautious.


The only naturally reproducing Rainbow Trout in the midwest are the famous steelhead of the Great Lakes. Steelhead are rainbow trout that migrate from an ocean or huge lake into a river to spawn, like a salmon. The young steelhead live in the river just like a stream trout. After two years or sometimes more of stream life, they begin their downriver journey to the big lake. At this time, increased activity of the thyroid gland makes the fish lose their rainbow-like markings and they develop a silvery sheen. They’re now technically smolts, undergoing the same changes as small salmon. Steelhead then go on to spend several months and up to four years out in Lake Superior groging on herring, smelt, and other fishes before returning to the stream of their birth to spawn. Some fish come up the rivers in spring and others in the fall. Unlike most salmon they can return to the lake to recuperate and spawn again. Steelhead grow darker the longer they’re in the river: the really silver fish tend to be fresh-run, just in from the lake. And it’s those that fight with the most bewildering speed, cunning and tenacity. Navigating the flooded springtime waters of the prime steelhead rivers is dangerous, and getting them to strike is no picnic either. But once you latch onto one, it's like a bolt of lightning has been unleashed on the river. They taste good too.

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