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Rainbow Trout

If you hook a trout and it jumps out of the water frequently and spectacularly, chances are good it's a rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). This trout species is native to the Pacific drainage of the United States, but transplanting has increased the rainbow's range throughout the West and parts of the East and Midwest. Some rainbow trout are migratory, spending part of their life in the ocean or one of the Great Lakes, and ascending freshwater streams to spawn. These types are called steelhead.

Rainbow trout require clean, cold, well-oxygenated water, and in rivers, show a preference for fast-moving riffles and runs. Rainbows in lakes have similar needs and they will ascend tributaries if present to spawn. They average from ^ pound to a couple of pounds in rivers, and about twice that in lakes. Steelhead run much larger.

Rainbow trout are usually not as difficult to catch as brown trout, but they certainly aren't pushovers. The majority of a rainbow trout's diet consists of aquatic insects (which, along with their acrobatics, makes them a favorite of flyfishermen), but will readily feed on terrestrial insects, worms, and small fish. Fly-rodders should try to match the hatch if one is present; if not, brightly colored wet flies or streamers are a good bet. Spinfishermen do well with the baits previously mentioned, as well as brightly colored spinners and small spoons. Rainbows and steelhead also display a liking for fish roe, so baits such as salmon eggs and egg sacs are worth trying. In large lakes, rainbows and steelhead are usually caught by anglers fishing with live bait and/or lures that resemble the particular forage base in that water, such as alewife.

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