Rainbow Trout
Typical Size
14-18" (1-3 lbs.)
Decent Size
19-21" (4-6 lbs.)
Nice Size
22-25" (7-12 lbs.)
40.3" (42 lbs. 2 oz.)
Awards Program
Qualifying Size

4 lbs.
Genus/Species Salmo gairdneri
Common Names red banded trout, steelhead, kamloops,
Hot Spots Long Pond, Fearings Pond, Whitman Pond
Best Time March - May
Best Baits spinners, worms, marshmallows
Best Method Bottom fishing with bait or trolling

Rainbow trout are likely the most recognizable fish to anglers and non-anglers alike. With it's striking pink line running down the middle of both sides, it is easy to see how it got it's name. This pink line, and the color that it is set against, can vary in intensity greatly. Some fish may have a pale white/silver body, while others have a deep brown-yellow to yellow-bluegreen body. All have numerous dark brown specks all over their sides. They also all have a pale yellow/white underside. Although considered a trout, the Rainbow is actually more closely related to the salmons. It is a relatively small fish with small scales.

Rainbow Trout
Rainbow Trout are easily distinguished by their middle red line.
Rainbow trout live in cool, well oxygenated streams and lakes, preferring warmer water than brook trout and are more tolerant of polluted water than most trout. Rainbow trout are not native to Massachusetts, but they are the most common stocked trout. All rainbow trout taken in south shore waters are stocked fish which do not reproduce. Because they can handle a broader range of water conditions, these stocked fish can holdover quite nicely from year-to-year, providing some individuals to attain lengths of nearly twenty inches.

Active predators, rainbow trout have a varied diet that includes flying insects, worms, insect larvae, tadpoles, and small fish. Their native range is the western half of North America from the Rockies to the Pacific coast from Alaska to California, however they have been widely transplanted. Rainbow trout that live in streams draining into marine environments often enter the sea, only to return back to the river in order to spawn. These fish are called steelhead, and are considered anadromous, similar to salmon. These fish also change color dramatically, becoming all silver, except for their backside, which become dark steel-blue to black.

Spawning of wild rainbow trout occurs in spring in gravel beds in the shallows of stream headwaters. Here, using their tail fins, a female creates a depression in sand or gravel, called a redd, where she lays her between 800-1,000 eggs. After they are fertilized by a male, the juvenile trout will hatch about a month and a half later.

You can fish for rainbow trout with many different kinds of bait. Drifting whole earthworms off the bottom is very effective as are small minnows, and mealworms. They will also take prepared trout baits such as salmon eggs, marshmallows, and various "Power baits." A simple bottom rig with a 1/8-1/4 ounce sinker is sufficient for bottom fishing with bait.

The other popular method for taking brook trout is casting small 1/16 to 1/8-ounce Mepps or Rooster Tail spinners. Once cast, let the spinner drop to the bottom, then engage the reel and quickly retrieve the spinner back to shore or boat. You can also substitute the spinners with small Kastmaster, Crocodile, or Daredevle spoons. Trolling these same spoons or small diving minnow plugs can also be very rewarding. Due to the small size of these fish, the lighter the gear the better. I personally use an ultra-light outfit fitted with the smallest spinning reel I can find.

Fishing for rainbow trout is an extremely important recreational fishery in Alaska and the Pacific coast states. Here on the south shore of Massachusetts, they create great excitement when the first stocking trucks begin releasing the fish in March. The next time you grumble at the cost of a fishing license, keep in mind that if it were for that small fee to fish for the year, you would never catch one of these fish on the south shore. An excellent tasting fish, the flesh of the rainbow trout is pink and firm. Just stocked fish have little color in their fillets, having spent all their life in the hatchery, however the longer they live in the wild, the deeper pink their flesh becomes. If you are concerned about mercury content in fish, look to catch most of your fish just after the stocking truck leaves.