About the Fish We Chase / Rainbow Trout and Subspecies

By my count, there are sixteen named subspecies of the genus Oncorhynchus. This genus includes the rainbow trout, the cutthroat and 14 others. They are of in the family Salmonidae and it contains the Pacific salmon and Pacific trout. The name of the genus is derived from the Greek onkos ("hook") and rynchos ("nose"), in reference to the hooked jaws of males in the mating season (the "kype").rainbow trout. When I say "named", I mean that they have a scientific name/classification and not some random name found in an article somewhere. The definition of subspecies is: "a taxonomic category that ranks below species, usually a fairly permanent geographically isolated race. 

When I first decided to include these pages and information of the website, I thought that all "true" trout would belong to the same genus and species. It seems that I was right...until 1988. In 1988, the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists Committee on Names of Fishes reviewed years of scientific and genetic research and officially recognized that the trout and other salmonids of the Pacific region were a separate genus from the trout and salmonids of the Atlantic region. When this happened, the genus Oncorhynchus was created for all of the "Pacific" salmonids and the genus Salmo (which includes the Atlantic salmon and the brown trout) was left but included only the salmonids of the Atlantic region. Now, I understand my confusion. If you are really a "fish geek", here is the link to the evidence used to make this decision. Click here...

In 1989, morphological and genetic studies indicated trout of the Pacific basin were genetically closer to Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus species) than to the Salmos–brown trout (S. trutta) or Atlantic salmon (S. salar) of the Atlantic basin. Thus, in 1989, taxonomic authorities moved the rainbow, cutthroat and other Pacific basin trout into the genus Oncorhynchus. For more information on this change in classification, please click here... and​ go to the taxonomy section of the article.

The source of my subspecies information is Fishbase.org  Warning: It takes a while to load (specifically https://www.fishbase.de/tools/Classification/ClassificationTree.php?genus=Oncorhynchus&species=mykiss#Oncorhynchusmykis


Coastal Forms:


Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) The native range of Oncorhynchus mykiss is in the coastal waters and tributary streams of the Pacific basin, from the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia, east along the Aleutian Islands, throughout southwest Alaska, the Pacific coast of British Columbia and southeast Alaska, and south along the west coast of the U.S. to northern Mexico. Image credit: Fish and Float Alaska. For more information, click here...

Coastal rainbow trout/steelhead  (Oncorhynchus mykiss irideus) In North America, coastal rainbow trout are native to Pacific coast streams, from the Kuskokwim River in Alaska south to Baja California. In California, coastal rainbow trout are the most widely-distributed native trout form and are found on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada in waters draining to the Pacific Ocean. Widespread glaciation that occurred over 10,000 years ago likely limited coastal rainbow trout distribution to elevations less than 8,000 feet on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada (probably lower elevations in the northern part of the range). Source: California Dept. Fish and Game

Steelhead trout is a name given to the anadromous form of the coastal rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus. m. irideus) or redband trout (O. m. gairdneri). The steelhead are native to freshwater and ocean environments across North America, but have been introduced to every other continent except Antarctica.  The freshwater form of the steelhead trout is the rainbow trout. The difference between these forms of the species is that steelhead migrate to the ocean and return to freshwater tributaries to spawn, whereas rainbow trout do not leave freshwater. Steelhead are also larger and less colorful than rainbow trout. Steelhead can weigh up to 55 pounds (26 kg) and reach 45 inches (114 cm) in length. They can live up to 11 years and spawn multiple times.[3] The body of the steelhead trout is silvery and streamlined with a rounder head. There are black dots and a red or pink stripe running down the side of the fish horizontally. This silver color and round head is what gives the steelhead its name.

Source: Wikipedia

Fly Fishing for Steelhead link to articles

Rainbow Trout
coastal rainbow trout.jpg

image: John White/online.sfsu.edu


image: Trout Unlimited (TU.org)

image: Native Fish Society


Redband Forms:

Redband trout are a group of three recognized subspecies of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). They occur in three distinct regions in Pacific basin tributaries and endorheic basins in the western United States. The three subspecies are the Columbia River redband trout (O. m. gairdneri), the McCloud River redband trout (O. m. stonei) and the Great Basin redband trout (O. m. newberrii).

The Columbia River redband trout, the inland redband trout or the interior redband trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss gairdneri) is one of three redband trout subspecies of the rainbow trout in the family Salmonidae. It is native in the Columbia River and its tributaries in Montana, Oregon, Washington and Idaho. It includes sea-run anadromous forms, which are known as redband steelhead. Also the large Kamloops rainbow trout is included.


image: WA Dept of Fish and Wildlife

The McCloud River redband trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss stonei) is one of three redband trout subspecies of the rainbow trout in the family Salmonidae. The trout is native in small tributaries of the McCloud River and Pit River which are tributaries of California's Sacramento River. Its historic range has declined significantly since it was first described in 1894. Remaining populations of genetically pure McCloud River redband trout are threatened by predation, habitat loss, competition with introduced trout species and by hybridization with hatchery rainbow trout introduced to support sport fishing. source: Wikipedia

For more information:

Fish of the Month - McCloud River Redband Trout (video) by Cal Trout

McCloud River Redband Trout - article by Fly Fishing the Sierra

The Great Basin redband trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss newberrii) is one of three redband trout subspecies of the rainbow trout in the western United States. The Great Basin redband trout is native to drainages in south central Oregon east of the Cascade range, extreme north east California and extreme north west Nevada. They occur in seven isolated drainages—the Upper Klamath Lake basinFort Rock basinHarney-Malheur basinCatlow basinWarner Lakes basinGoose Lake basin, and the Chewaucan basin.

For more information:

Great Basin redband trout by US Fish & Wildlife Service

Upper Klamath Basin Redband Trout by Oregon Dept. Fish & Wildlife

Great Basin Redband Trout

image: US Fish & Wildlife Service


Eagle Lake trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss aquilarum), is a subspecies of rainbow trout endemic to Eagle Lake, in Lassen County, California. It is a type of trout known for its ability to withstand high alkalinity. The Eagle Lake trout name comes from its former exclusive-endemic Eagle Lake territory. The lake's trout population was thought to be extinct. A few were discovered in the lake in 1958, and the California Department of Fish and Game planted 5,000 of the trout in the lake. While formerly only in Eagle Lake, the Department of Fish and Wildlife (formerly the Department of Fish and Game) has transplanted the Eagle Lake trout into dozens of other lakes in California

Eagle Lake Rainbow Trout.jpg

image: Trout Unlimited (TU.org)

The Kamloops trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss kamloops) is a local variety of the rainbow trout, a fish in the family Salmonidae. From its native range in British Columbia, Canada, it has been transferred to several other drainages in the United States.[2] It is often considered a part of the broader Columbia River redband trout subspecies, Oncorhynchus mykiss gairdneri.

For more information:

A Look at the Rainbow Trout of Kamloops by Jordan Oelrich

Kamloops rainbow trout.jpg

The Sheepheaven Creek redband trout is a local Californian variety of the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), a freshwater fish in the family Salmonidae. It is considered either a distinct western form of the McCloud River redband trout (subspecies Oncorhynchus mykiss stonei), or a subspecies of its own, which has not been scientifically named and described yet. It is native to Sheepheaven Creek, Siskiyou County, California, United States. It has been transplanted into Swamp Creek in 1972 and 1974 and into Trout Creek in 1977. They can now be found in both locations. Sheepheaven Creek redband are found to be the most distinct among all other trout groups, and therefore has been suggested to merit recognition as a new subspecies.

The Athabasca rainbow trout is a localized variety of the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), a fish in the family Salmonidae. It is found in the headwaters of the Athabasca river in Alberta Canada. The Athabasca rainbow trout was considered as a form of the Columbia River redband trout (O. mykiss gairdneri) subspecies in the trout handbook of Robert J. Behnke (1992), but considered a separate, yet unnamed subspecies by L. M. Carl of the Ontario Ministry of Resources in work published in 1994. The Athabasca River is a tributary of the Mackenzie River system which flows north into the Arctic Ocean.

The Athabasca rainbow trout is one of the few native rainbow trout populations found in an Arctic Ocean watershed. Populations of either coastal rainbow trout (O. m. irideus) or Columbia River redband trout (O. m. gairdneri) exist in Peace and Liard river tributaries in the Mackenzie River system.

For more information:

Athabasca redband rainbow trout by Alberta Canada Gov.


image:Alberta Canada Gov.


image: CalTrout.org


Kern River golden trout:

The three golden trout listed here are sometimes referred to as the "golden trout complex"

The California golden trout, or simply the golden trout (Oncorhynchus aguabonita), is a species of trout native to California. The golden trout is native to Golden Trout Creek (tributary to the Kern River), Volcano Creek (tributary to Golden Trout Creek), and the South Fork Kern River. It is the state fish of California.

For more information:

California Golden Trout by Native Trout Fly Fishing

Note: There is some disagreement within the scientific community as to the classification of the California golden trout. In some places, it is listed as Oncorhynchus aguabonita and in other sources as Oncorhynchus mykiss aguabonita. So, some list is as a subspecies of rainbow trout and others as a full and separate species. FishBase and the Catalog of Fishes now (2014) list O. aguabonita as an independent species rather than as subspecies of O. mykiss. Likewise, while ITIS lists O. m. whitei and O. m. gilberti (the other two Kern river golden trout) as subspecies of O. mykiss, O. aguabonita instead is listed as a full species.  

image:CA. Dept. of Fish & Game

The Kern River rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss gilberti) is a localized subspecies of the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). It is found in a short section of the main stem of the Kern River and several tributaries in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains in California. The Kern River rainbow trout is a "Species of Special Concern" in the state of California due to habitat loss and hybridization with other native and non-native trout in their range. Endemic to the Kern River and tributaries in Tulare County, California. Its current range is drastically reduced from its historic range. Remnant populations live in the Kern River above Durrwood Creek, in upper Ninemile, Rattlesnake and Osa creeks, and possibly in upper Peppermint Creek.

For more information:

Kern River Rainbow Trout by Native Trout Fly Fishing

The Little Kern golden trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss whitei) is a brightly colored subspecies of rainbow trout native to the main stem and tributaries of the Little Kern River in Tulare CountyCalifornia. Endemic to about 100 miles (160 km) of the Little Kern River and tributaries. Their current range is restricted to five headwater streams in the Kern River basin (Wet Meadows, Deadman, Soda Spring, Willow, Sheep and Fish creeks) plus an introduced population in Coyote Creek, a tributary of the Kern River.

For more information:

Little Kern Golden Trout by Native Trout Fly Fishing

image: Native Trout Fly Fishing

Mexican rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss nelsoni) The Baja California rainbow trout or San Pedro Martir trout or Nelson's trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss nelsoni) is a localized subspecies of the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), a freshwater fish in the family Salmonidae.  It is endemic to headwater tributaries of the Rio Santo Domingo in the Sierra de San Pedro Mártir mountain range of the Peninsular Ranges System, located in Baja California state on the northern Baja California Peninsula.

Image credit: Arturo Ruiz Luna.

For more info, click here ...

Mexican golden trout