Rainbow Trout (Steelhead)

Rainbow Trout (Steelhead)
Top Record:
48 lb IGFA
Fly Fishing, Spot Casting, Drift Fishing


Oncorhynchus mykiss, the rainbow trout or steelhead, is one of the most popular game fish in North America. The same species, “rainbows” spend their life in freshwater while “steelies” spend most of their life in saltwater, moving into upstream to spawn. This difference has dramatic effect of their size and appearance. Rainbows get their name from multi-hued blues, greens, yellows and whites. Steelheads are more uniform in color, found in shades from silver to bronze, with a more streamlined look. Steelheads are typically larger, but both fish can come in over 50 pounds. Rainbows and steelies are native to North America, west of the Rocky Mountains, but have been introduced to nearly every other state, and continent (minus Antarctica) worldwide. Rainbow trout are a favorite species of mountain stream fly fisherman. Tons of steelheads are also caught on flies, but spoons and spinners are more common tackle. In the east, steelies are often caught on drift boats around Lake Ontario. On the west coast, they can both be found in many Pacific Northwest rivers and streams.