Rainbow Trout


Rainbow trout are primarily a freshwater fish, while larger ocean-going fish are often referred to as steelhead. Steelheads are often confused as being a separate species, though in truth they are not.


Rainbow trout have the typical trout-shape with an adipose fin, and a squarish tail that has black spots throughout. The rainbow trout has 10-12 anal rays and a white mouth and gums. Rainbow trout or steelhead are generally bright silver with a bright pink band. Males develop a hooked jaw known as a "kype" during the spawning season.

Maximum Size

IGFA Record of 48 pounds (21.77 kg).

Geographic Range

Native to western part of North America and the Pacific Ocean. They are one of most common stocking species, now swimming in streams and lakes across the continent and the world.


Rainbow trout prefer cold water streams with cobble, boulders, deep pools, and overhead cover.


Small fish, fish eggs, and aquatic insects.


Rainbow trout are a cold water species that in nature spawn in moving water over gravel or cobble substrate. They generally spawn in colder temperatures, shortly after the ice thaws. Steelhead spawn at different times depending on location, the major periods being summer and winter seasons.

Information courtesy of Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Fishing For Rainbow Trout

rainbow trout
Rainbow Trout Illustration

Rainbow trout is one of the most sought after fish in North America. It is quite favored by novice and professional fly fishing enthusiasts for its impressive colors and fighting ability. They are typically silver or gray on the sides and olive greenish on the top with dark spots. They have torpedo shaped body and are usually brighter and more silver when coming from the sea. When they spend some time in freshwater, they will darken to a more slightly brownish color.

This fish can be found across six continents in trout rivers, trout streams, and trout lakes. Of course ocean going rainbow trout are also found in saltwater bays and open oceans, but returns to freshwater to spawn.

Ocean going rainbow trout are often referred to as steelhead. Many anglers wrongly believe that steelhead are its own species, but they are in fact rainbow trout.

Rainbow trout are predators and will eat a wide variety of food. They typically eat invertebrates, crustaceans, and insects like mayflies, caddis flies, and black flies. When they are in flowing waters they will also eat fish eggs from salmon and other trout.

Rainbow and steelhead trout river fishing is very popular across North America. In fact, rainbow and steelhead fly fishing in America and Canada is among the top favorites amongst anglers. Fly anglers usually use an assortment of wet and dry insect imitations, streamers, and balls of yarn that imitate eggs.

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