Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)
Members of the salmon family, the rainbow trout are those salmon which stay in fresh water after they hatch. They are found in Asia and most of North America. The anadromous type, those that hatch in freshwater streams then return to the ocean have been introduced into forty five countries to be used as sport or food. These fish are known as the steelhead or ocean trout. The rainbow trout is a dark olive color that changes to silvery white underneath with a prominently speckled body and a pinkish red stripe along the side of its body.
The steelheads develop differently as they migrate to the ocean, their head, mouth and coloring change where the rainbow trout does not change. Steelheads do not have the red streak that the rainbow trout do. The more brilliantly marked of these live in freshwater streams and have dark spots across the back along with a blue to green with a touch of yellow or brown.
Rainbow and steelhead trout can spawn many times before they die, unlike other species of salmon. A nest is made measuring from four to twelve inches deep in shallow gravel in a clear stream. This takes place from March to July, with the female depositing up to eight thousand eggs, which are fertilized by the male then they are covered with gravel and left to hatch.
It takes anywhere from four weeks to four months for the fry to hatch, then they begin their fight to survive the hazards. Feeding on the insects, tiny crustaceans, larvae and plant material, they stay in the same area for the first two or three years. Rainbow trout move on to larger bodies of water and streams, feasting on fish, salmon carcasses, eggs and sometime small mammals. Rainbow trout range from one to three feet in length and can live over eleven years.
There is controversy over the steelhead and rainbow trout conservation needs. The rainbow trout is thought to be not threatened while the steelhead trout is the subject of varied efforts to conserve it. The reason is that the steelhead faces greater dangers due to migration, harvest and ocean survival. Some of the efforts to conserve the steelhead include the limit of types of bait fishermen use and the places where they are allowed to fish, as well as protection of their habitat.
Rainbow trout is a wonderful food. The flesh is nutty tasting with pink or orange pink color. There are many rainbow trout farms in the United States. Buhl, Idaho is one of the largest. So grab a pole, some worms and head out to catch some wonderful rainbow trout.