Common Name: Rainbow Trout
Scientific Name: Salmo gairdneri
Appearance: Rainbow trout have a heavily spotted, silvery and/or green bodywith a large, unmistakable swath of purple, pink, and blue reflective stripes running towards their squared-off tails.
Distribution: Ranging naturally across the northern Pacific between Mexico, Alaska, and East Asia, rainbows have been introudced to lakes and streams everywhere from Europe to South America to Australia, as well as to North America’s Great Lakes. Highly adaptable, the rainbow can tolerate water temperatures anywhere from 32ºF to 80ºF or higher. While some are locked in shallower, inland lakes, rainbows generally prefer fast-moving streams or vast, deep, open bodies of water.
Rainbows come in two distinct subspecies: the migratory steelhead and non-migratory shasta. However, interbreeding has led to there being many fish with predominately shasta characteristics who nonetheless migrate out to sea, and vice versa.
Spawning: Though local environmental conditions may cause them to spawn earlier or later, rainbows typically spawn in the spring. Females will enter cool, steadily-flowing, gravel-bottomed streams and deposit their eggs in a short trench (redd) that the female carves out with her tail. After a male fertilizes the eggs, the female covers them with a thin layer of gravel then leaves them to incubate. The period of incubation varies based on oxygen and temperature levels of the the surrounding water.
Newly hatched rainbows, called alevin, will live off their attached yolk sacs for the first few weeks before graduating to small, shallow-simming prey such as insects and fish eggs. As the rainbow grows, it moves on to bigger prey and deeper waters.
Angling: Rainbows are highly impressive both fortheir beautiful appearance and ferocious, acrobatic fighting style. Many an angler has been awed by the sight of a hooked rainbow leaping full out of the water in an effort to shake the hook, sunlight gleaming off its vividly colored stripes.
In the springtime, the best place to find rainbow trout would be a fast-moving stream with plenty of structure (rocks, trees, etc.), whereas in summer you mightdo better to searchthe deeper waters of the adjoining lake or sea. While they can tolerate a wide range of temperatures, rainbows prefer cool water, and will only comenear the surfacejust afterdawn or during cloudy weather. Otherwise, you’ll have to do a lot of ping-ing with your depthfinder to locate summer rainbows.
Forrainbows, bait selection isn’t nearly so important as presentation. Rainbows will strike anything from a worm to an artificial lure to a marshmallow, provided it’s presented in theproper manner. If casting, use a medium to light rodand let the bait sink to the bottom and sit for a few moments before reeling it in with a short, hopping motion along the bottom (this will take a bit of practice). Patience and precision is required to get results, as the rainbows’ metabolism will be slowed and their feeding instincts subdued by the cool temperatures – only a bait cast close to the fish and moved in the right way will produce a strike.
Trolling is another tactic that works well both in spring and on cooler summer days. Spinners, small spoons, bucktails, and streamers will all dothe job, though it mighthelp to add abit of live or cut bait as an extra incentive.
Fly-fishing is a great method for rainbows in the late summer and fall. Bucktails, streamers, and spinners work well during the early morning, when rainbows usually start off with a breakfast of minnows, though flies work best in the afternoon, when rainbows go hunting for bugs. Just be advised that a rainbow might try to “stun” an insect. If a rainbow should bat at a lure, just “play dead” and let it drift on the surface, and odds are the rainbow will come back to swallow it.