Bow, Redband, Silver Trout, Redsides
Average 11-18 inches. Rainbow trout can grow to 20+ inches in quality populations.
29.60 lbs; Norm Butler; Rufus Woods Lake, Okanogan County; November 11, 2002
Rainbow trout are the most common and hence most popular species of trout in Washington. There are thousands of wild populations statewide but the main reason for their popularity is that the Washington Department of fish and Wildlife stocks millions of rainbow trout in hundreds of waters annually across the state for the specific purpose of providing recreational angling opportunity. Rainbow trout are an excellent game fish reputed for their willingness to bite bait and lures, scrappy nature when on the end of a fishing line and the fact that they are excellent table fare. Rainbow trout can be identified by their bluish-green back, silver sides and belly, and black spots on the body and on the caudal, dorsal, and adipose fins. Another characteristic of rainbow trout, and a characteristic that it gets its name from is the presence of a reddish stripe along its sides that is often, but not always present.
There are three subspecies of rainbow trout that occur in Washington, but only two are native; the coastal rainbow trout (Onchorhynchus mykiss irideus) and the Columbia Basin redband trout (O. mykiss gairdneri). The coastal rainbow trout occurs in western Washington and in the lower Columbia River. There is a unique form of the coastal rainbow trout that is only found in Crescent Lake and it is known as the Beardslee rainbow trout. All of the hatchery rainbow trout stocked into waters of the state of Washington are of coastal rainbow trout genetic origin. The Columbia Basin redband trout occurs in the Columbia River drainage from the Klickitat River upstream.
Generally people think of rainbow trout as only inhabiting cold clear rivers, streams and lakes but both of the subspecies can be anadromous (sea going). Anadromous rainbow trout are commonly known as steelhead. Steelhead are also highly regarded game fish and it is he state of fish of Washington.
Rainbow trout can be caught in every county in Washington and so are in a lake or stream near you. They prefer cool, clean water (less than 70°F) that is well oxygenated.
Rainbow trout prefer to eat small aquatic and terrestrial insects, but larger adults will also prey on other fishes. Part of their popularity as a game fish is because they are so willing to take a variety of baits, both natural and artificial, including but not limited to: corn, salmon eggs, dough, cheese, night crawlers and powerbait. Artificial lures such as spinners, spoons, jigs, flies, wedding rings and plugs are also very effective. When fishing lakes during the spring and fall, the water is cooler and the rainbow trout will often be found near the surface and also more active. Trolling with spinners, flies, and spoons is a common tactic as well as suspending bait from the surface. When the water warms during the summer months, the rainbow trout become a little more sluggish and seek deeper, cooler water, so fishing will need to occur at or near the bottom. To catch the bottom dwellers you will want to fish with bait slightly suspended off the bottom, or troll with your lure near the bottom as well.
Remember, when handling any fish you intend to release, wet your hands first so you don’t take off the fish’s protective slippery coating. Dry hands will remove the protective coating and make the fish vulnerable to bacterial or fungal infections, which can kill them.