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Coldwater Fish Species

 Redband Trout


The coldwater fish illustrations are by Joseph Tomelleri. Pictures of fish on this webpage are copyrighted.  To use these prints for other purposes, please obtain permission through the following website:  http://www.americanfishes.com



Rainbow Trout
(Oncorhynchus mykiss)

Other Names: bows or freshwater salmon
Average size: 2-4 lbs, up to 8 lbs
Spring spawner

[Photo]: Rainbow Trout

Rainbow Trout are actually a land-locked form of the anadromous Steelhead. Their diet consists of eating such things as minnows, crayfish, insects, and other small aquatic life.

Rainbow Trout get their name from the reddish stripe along their sides, but not all Rainbow Trout have really bright red stripes. Mature males who are ready to spawn have the most pronounced red striping while the females are much less dramatic in coloration. The rest of the fish body is usually silvery, darker on top and lighter on bottom for camouflage (if they are dark on top, they are hard to see against the dark back ground of the bottom of the stream, and their light undersides make them hard to see from the bottom looking up because they are hard to see against the light of the sun and sky) with black spots along the back.

Rainbows actually prefer cold, clear, swift-moving water to live in, but they can survive in fairly warm water as well if they can get enough oxygen. They are found most often in water 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit, but can tolerate temperatures up to 75 degrees.

To spawn, Rainbows return to the stream where they were born (they can find it by SMELLING it!!). Here, the female makes a nest called a "redd" by scooping out the gravel with her tail (she doesn't actually use her tail as a shovel in the gravel, but she pumps it so hard that the water forces the gravel to move so that a hole is soon made). Then she lays her eggs in her redd and a male fish fertilizes them.

Redband Trout
(Oncorhynchus mykiss ssp.)

Other Names: redsides
Average size:
Spring spawner

[Photo]: Redband Trout

The Redband Trout (inland Rainbow Trout) are indigenous to Central Oregon. Redband Trout are a subspecies of Rainbow Trout and Steelhead, and are adapted to the arid conditions east of the Cascades. Historically, they were found throughout Central Oregon in waters connected to the Deschutes River.

Today, their distribution is fragmented due to dams without fish passage, natural barriers, severe stream flow alterations from irrigation development, chemical treatment projects, and introduction of non-indigenous trout stocks.

Redband Trout spawn in rivers and streams during the spring (March, April and May). Cool, clean, well-oxygenated water is necessary for the eggs to survive. Redband trout fry emerge from the gravel in June and July. For the most part, they live near where they were spawned. Age at maturity is 3 years with size varying depending on productivity of individual waters. Few Redband Trout exceed 10 inches in length.

Coastal Cutthroat Trout
(Oncorhynchus clarki)

Average size: 2-3 lbs, up to 17 lbs
Spring spawner

[Photo]: Coastal Cutthroat Trout

Three varieties of Cutthroat trout are available to Washington and Oregon anglers. The most common is the Coastal Cutthroat, which includes both resident and anadromous--or sea-run--strains. Resident Coastal Cutthroat are found in many streams and beaver ponds. In some of these small waters they may grow no larger than 8 or 9 inches long.

Although there are variations among the subspecies (and among races within the subspecies), Cutthroats usually have greenish backs with yellow or silver sides showing many dark grey or black spots, and a slash of red on the lower jaw, which inspired it's name. Where Cutthroats cross-breed with Rainbows, the rainbow's markings dominate, making hybrids difficult to distiguish from pure Rainbows.

Sea-Run Cutthroat spawn in many coastal tributary streams. While still thriving in some coastal river systems, many cutthroat populations have declined due to stream pollution and loss of small-stream habitat. Wild-cutthroat-release regulations and bait-fishing restrictions are now in effect on many Washington streams, so anglers should read the fishing regulations carefully before pursuing these eager biters.

Westslope Cutthroat are more common in eastern lakes and streams. They are also stocked in many high-country lakes. They can be caught on all standard trout lures and baits, but since their diet consists mostly of insects, fly-fishing is especially effective. Some bodies of water have special barbless hook and bait/lure regulations, so be sure to check the fishing regulations pamphlet.

Lahontan Cutthroat are relative newcomers, where they have been stocked in only a few highly alkaline, east-side lakes. Artificial flies, spoons, spinners and wobbling plugs all work well for these big cutthroats that have adapted to desert lakes.

Dolly Varden
(Salvelinus malma)

Other Names: red-spotted rocky mountain trout, red-spotted trout or char, pacific or western brook char or trout, sea trout or char, salmon-trout
Average size: 2-5 lbs, up to 30 lbs
Fall spawner

[Photo]: Dolly Varden

Bull Trout
(Salvelinus confluentus)

[Photo]: Bull Trout

In the cold, clear waters of the Pacific Northwest, some of the world's most important and beautiful fish--the trout, salmon and char--have evolved. But none of these native salmonids (the name used for members of the Salmonidae family) are as pretty or as mysterious as our Native Char, the Dolly Varden and Bull Trout.

The average length of the fresh water form is 12-18 inches long and 18-24 inches in anadromous stocks. The color is variable with size, locality and habitat. Adults living in the sea are a dark blue with silvery sides and those living in fresh water are a olive-green to brown. Spawning adults turn a bright red. All are spotted.

The Dolly Varden is a fall spawner. The female digs the redd and is attended by 4-5 males. Generally this species lives 10-12 years. Bull trout spawn in cold tributary streams in the early fall (September - October). They deposit eggs in a redd and juvenile Bull Trout typically rear in the parent stream for two years and then migrate in the spring to larger waters for rearing to adulthood. At age 5, they migrate back to their natal tributary to spawn. Bull Trout are very piscivorous (fish eating) allowing them to reach up to 20 lbs in size depending on food availability.

Eastern Brook Trout
(Salvelinus fontinalis)

Other names: speckled trout, aurora trout, brookie, square-tail, speckled char, sea trout, common brook trout, mud trout, breac
Average size: 1-5 lbs, up to 4 lbs
Fall spawner

[Photo]: Eastern Brook Trout

Brook Trout are an introduced fish species that were first stocked in the early 1900's. They are widely distributed from high mountain lakes to headwater tributaries. They are found in all stream systems and most major lakes where water quality is suitable. They are the most prevalent fish in both wilderness and non-wilderness high lakes.

Brook Trout spawn in October and early November and redds are typically built in headwater streams and springs with spring-fed cold streams preferred. Eggs hatch in early winter and juveniles emerge from the gravel in the spring. Sexual maturity is reached at age 3 with size varying depending on productivity of the individual water.

The Brook Trout are easily identified by worm-shaped markings called vermiculations along their back and upper sides. Brook Trout grow rapidly when conditions are right, reaching 6 or 7 inches in a year and sometimes growing to 5 pounds. They are also subject to stunting from overpopulation in some lakes. Insect larvae and nymphs make up a large part of their diet, so they are a logical favorite of fly fishers.

Brown Trout
(Salmo trutta)

Other names: english brown trout, european brown trout, brownie, browns
Average size: 1-7 lbs, up to 40 lbs
Fall spawner

[Photo]: Brown Trout

Brown Trout spawn in rivers and streams during the fall (October-November) and prefer cold spring-fed streams. Eggs are deposited in a redd and fry usually emerge in March. They are generally sexually mature at 3 years of age with an average length of 15 inches. Brown Trout are very piscivorous (fish eating), and long-lived which accounts for them reaching large sizes. They are highly regarded by anglers as a trophy trout. Typical coloring is olive-green to dark brown on the back with silvery sides and pale spotting. All colors intensify at spawning time.

For the wide variety of foods the Brown Trout will eat, it can be very difficult to catch. For one, many larger browns are primarily nocturnal feeders, and, for two, during prolific insect hatches, Browns can be extremely selective about what they'll eat.

Lake Trout
(Salvelinus namaycush)

Other names: lake char
Average size: 2-11 lbs, up to 72 lbs
Fall spawner

[Photo]: Lake Trout

Lake Trout are an introduced species to the northwest with the first introductions in 1917. Lake Trout are very piscivorous (fish eating) eating primarily whitefish, kokanee, tui chubs, other trout, and crayfish. They are very long-lived (about 20 years) and can reach very large size. The body, colored light green or grey, dark green, brown or almost black with lighter colored spots is typically troutlike, elongate.

Lake Trout spawn in the fall (October) when they move to gravel/cobble shoal areas. They do not build nests (redds), but rather broadcast spawn with the fertilized eggs settling in the crevices between the rocks. Eggs do not hatch until spring. Sexual maturity is generally reached at age 6 or 7.