Reddish-pink and silver sides, black spots
Dark to light green top and white belly
being acrobats, rainbow trout are powerful fighters when hooked; often
taking to the air during relentless struggles with excited anglers. Just as
stunning as they are combatant, rainbows are named for their beautiful side
colors of reddish-pink and silver. Sea-going rainbows are better known as
3 to 10 pounds average, depending on population and habitat
Up to 30+ pounds
Cast and retrieve, bait
Spinning and fly rods
Southcentral and southeast Alaska Peninsula
May - October
Pale, reddish meat similar to other trout Tasty pan-fried or baked
42 pounds, 3 ounces, Bell Island by David White, 1970
Rainbow trout share the similar, streamlined shape of
salmon. However, their vibrant side colors of red and pink are a trademark
that sets them apart from the ordinary. Coloration along the back is
usually darker and ranges from blue-green to olive. The belly is white and
the lower sides darken into silver. Like many other trout species, rainbows
also are speckled with small black spots that appear on the lateral line,
upper fins and tail. In some populations, adults also have spots on their
lower sides. The color and overall body shape of rainbows are determined
mainly by age, sex, and habitat. Populations found in streams have the most
vibrant coloration as well as the most spots. During spawning season, body
color tends to darken.
Natural populations of rainbows occur throughout the Alaska Peninsula, Kenai
Peninsula, Kodiak Island and the Copper River and Kuskokwim River
drainages. They can also be found in the river systems of the Naknek,
Kvichak, Illiamna, Nushagak, Alagnak, Susitna and Togiak. The trout have
been stocked in some Southcentral areas and as far north as Fairbanks. The
largest rainbows belong to native populations.
Fish growth is almost always regulated by the
availability of food, size of the habitat and the temperature of the water.
Rainbows in mountainous streams are subjected to less food and shallower,
colder water. They grow at a slower rate and reach smaller sizes than their
counterparts located in rivers and lakes of less elevation and of larger
size. Also, trout in smaller waters have a diet of mostly insects, which
makes them grow slower than those that eat primarily fish.
Fishing is usually the most productive during spring and
fall months. Catching a rainbow can prove more difficult during large
salmon runs. Medium-action spinning and fly rods with cast and retrieve
methods usually works best. Rainbows will take several different types of
tackle including baits, lures, wobbling spoons, weighted spinners, flies,
streamers, muddlers and egg patterns. Fluorescent colors can sometimes work
the best and some populations will prefer certain colors over others. As
with other trout, their diet will determine the gear. Depending on the
depth of the water, fishing near the bottom can be the most effective.
Remember, rainbows prefer colder water.
Rainbows are excellent swimmers that will travel hundreds
of river miles upstream to spawn. Some of the best rainbow fishing can only
be reached by floatplane or an extensive boat ride.
Rainbows prefer cold water and reside in streams and
rivers that are fed by springs or snowmelt. Populations found in lakes
prefer the deeper, colder water. Some individual adult rainbows will live
in both habitats by following sockeye salmon migrations from rivers into
lakes. Rainbows that migrate will typically grow larger than those that
remain in the same streams and ponds where they were hatched.
The spawning season of rainbows is harder to predict than
other trout, which routinely spawn in autumn. However, populations of
rainbows spawn months apart and usually between mid-April and late June.
Yet, in some areas, rainbows may spawn as early as November or December.
Difference in water temperature and habitat are considered primary factors.
Spawning times may differ from other trout, but the act
itself is very similar. First, females dig the common redds about
4-10 inches deep and 10-15 inches in diameter. The female will deposit 200
to 4,000 eggs in the redd, which are then fertilized by the male and
afterward covered with gravel. Rainbow eggs are larger than those of most
other trout and are therefore more easily found by predators. The length of
incubation is determined by water temperature and can range from three weeks
to four months.
After the eggs hatch, the individual young fish are still
not independent. They remain in the redd and subsist from an
attached egg sac for several weeks. When they are strong enough they will
dig themselves from the gravel and enter the current of the stream. The
small rainbows remain together in small groups and stay in shallow water.
Instinctively, and throughout the rest of their life, rainbows constantly
watch for the movement of predators both below and above the surface.
The first food they will actively consume includes
plankton, crustaceans, vegetation and insects. As they move into deeper and
larger water, they will begin eating eggs and salmon carcasses. Within two
to three years they will begin eating other live fish. Rainbows that eat
mostly fish rather than insects usually grow the fastest.
Fish Alaska Magazine
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