Rainbow trout

fresh-water species of fish

The rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) is a species of fish. It is farmed in some places. Like species of trout, the rainbow trout is related to salmon. The rainbow trout is one of many different kinds of trout. It is called a rainbow trout because its scales are colorful and shiny.

A rainbow trout




Geographical group Common name Scientific name Range Image
Type subspecies Kamchatkan rainbow trout O. m. mykiss (Walbaum, 1792) Western Pacific: the Kamchatka Peninsula, and has been recorded from the Commander Islands east of Kamchatka, and sporadically in the Sea of Okhotsk, as far south as the mouth of the Amur River
Coastal forms Coastal rainbow trout O. m. irideus (Gibbons, 1855) Pacific Ocean tributaries from Aleutian Islands in Alaska south to Southern California. Anadromous forms are known as steelhead, freshwater forms as rainbow trout. Ocean (a.k.a. "steelhead") and fresh water forms of coastal rainbow trout

O. m. irideus

Beardslee trout O. m. irideus var. beardsleei (not a true subspecies, but a genetically unique lake-dwelling variety of the coastal rainbow trout) (Jordan, 1896) Isolated in Lake Crescent, Washington
Redband forms Columbia River redband trout O. m. gairdneri (Richardson, 1836) Found in the Columbia River and its tributaries in Montana, Washington and Idaho. Anadromous forms are known as redband steelhead. Columbia River redband trout

O. m. gairdneri

Athabasca rainbow trout O. m. spp., considered by Behnke as a form of O. m. gairdneri, but considered a separate subspecies by biologist L. M. Carl of the Ontario Ministry of Resources, Aquatic Ecosystems Research Section and associates from work published in 1994. Distributed throughout the headwaters of the Athabasca River system in Alberta
McCloud River redband trout O. m. stonei (Jordan, 1894) Native to the McCloud River, upstream of Middle Falls, and its tributaries in Northern California, south of Mount Shasta.
Sheepheaven Creek redband trout O. m. spp. Native to Sheepheaven Creek, Siskiyou County, California. Sheepheaven Creek redband were transplanted into Swamp Creek in 1972 and 1974 and into Trout Creek in 1977.
Great Basin redband trout O. m. newberrii (Girard, 1859) Native in southeastern Oregon and parts of California and Nevada on the periphery of the Great Basin.
Eagle Lake trout O. m. aquilarum (Snyder, 1917) Endemic to Eagle Lake in Lassen County, California.
Kamloops rainbow trout O. m. kamloops strain (Jordan, 1892) Native to several large British Columbia lakes, particularly Kamloops Lake and Kootenay Lake. Known for its very large size.
Kern River golden trout Golden trout O. m. aguabonita (Jordan, 1892) Native to Golden Trout Creek (tributary to the Kern River), Volcano Creek (tributary to Golden Trout Creek), and the South Fork Kern River. Kern River golden trout

O. m. aguabonita

Kern River rainbow trout O. m. gilberti (Jordan, 1894) Endemic to the Kern River and tributaries in Tulare County, California. Its current range is drastically reduced from its historic range. Remnant populations live in the Kern River above Durrwood Creek, in upper Ninemile, Rattlesnake, and Osa creeks, and possibly in upper Peppermint Creek.
Little Kern golden trout O. m. whitei (Evermann, 1906) Endemic to about 160 kilometres (100 mi) of the Little Kern River and tributaries of Tulare County, California. Their current range is restricted to five headwater streams in the Kern River basin (Wet Meadows, Deadman, Soda Spring, Willow, Sheep, and Fish creeks) plus an introduced population in Coyote Creek, a tributary of the Kern River.
Mexican forms Mexican rainbow trout

*Rio Yaqui, Rio Mayo and Guzman trout *Rio San Lorenzo and Arroyo la Sidra trout *Rio del Presidio trout

O. m. nelsoni (Evermann, 1908) Sometimes referred to as Nelson's trout, occurs in three distinct geographic groups. The taxonomy of these trout is subject to ongoing research, and there may be significant diversity of forms in this group.
Mutated forms Golden rainbow trout

or Palomino trout

So-called golden rainbow trout or palomino trout are bred from a single mutated color variant of O. mykiss that originated in a West Virginia fish hatchery in 1955. They are also known as banana trout. It is stocked outside of West Virginia but West Virginia still stocks 50,000 palominos a year. The golden rainbow trout is predominantly yellowish, lacking the typical green field and black spots, but retaining the diffuse red stripe. The palomino trout is a mixture of golden and common rainbow trout, resulting in an intermediate color. The golden rainbow trout is not the same subspecies as the naturally occurring O. m. aguabonita, the Kern River golden trout of California. Golden rainbow



Populations of many rainbow trout subspecies have declined in their native ranges due to over-harvest, habitat loss and disease.

Whirling disease


Myxobolus cerebralis is a myxosporean parasite of salmonids that causes whirling disease.

In a human context




Rainbow trout and steelhead are thought to be game fish among anglers. They're a very popular target for fly fishers.

Rainbow trout and potatoes

As food


In Western cuisine, rainbow trout is very popular. It has tender flesh and a mild, somewhat nutty flavor. Wild fish has a stronger, gamier taste than farmed fish. Farmed rainbow trout are considered one of the safest fish to eat and have a number vitamin B. They are also noted for being tasty.



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Rainbow trout are a popular game fish for fly fishers.

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