Origin of Rainbow Trout [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Origin of Rainbow Trout

01-14-2006, 09:45 AM
I'm sure there are some people out there who can shed some light for me on where the original home of the rainbow trout is? I believe that they originally came from somewhere in the Sierra Nevada mntn range? Is this correct, and if so, then precisely where? Thanks.

01-14-2006, 11:41 AM
Rainbow trout are native to pacific coasts of North America and Asia. I think that their range in North America was from Mexico to Alaska.
The rivers that I keep hearing were the source of the rainbow trout stocked around the world are The Shasta River, The Russian River, and the Mcloud River. All in California but not inn the Sierras.

01-15-2006, 09:42 AM
There is this incredible fish called the wild steelhead which ranges from Russia around the Aleutians to Alaska, down British Columbia and along the Pacific coast and before man's erradication of rare strains ranged as far south as the Mexican border as Eddie pointed out... but some of them could not make it to the sea to reach their full potential so became landlocked. These were called "rainbow trout" :lildevl:

No idea which came first, the chicken or the egg but I do enjoy pointing out that in North America we call atlantic salmon that could not make it to sea "landlocked salmon" but we name steelhead and rainbow trout differently instead of landlocked steelhead.

01-15-2006, 01:54 PM
As Juro pointed out, Rainbows and Steelhead are identical. However, I am under the impression that rainbows did exist in free flowing streams and for whatever reason were resident and did not go out to sea.

Bob Pauli
01-15-2006, 02:12 PM

The authoritative book on the subject, Trout and Salmon of North America by Robert J. Behnke, is worth a trip to the library or book store. It was published in 2002 by The Free Press, a division of Simon and Schuster.

The illustrations by Joseph Tomelleri are worth the price, but the written pages are even more interesting.

From the Introduction:
"Fifty million years ago, enormous rivers known today as the Yukons flowed into the Pacific Ocean from a high plateau in the Pacific Northwest."

"Swarms of fishes ...swam in these ancient waters.

"One of these fishes, a nimble trout, would dart after insects and chase smaller fishes, then scurry beneath a log for cover. Perhaps the progenitor of all modern trout and salmon, Eosalmo driftwoodensis is the earliest known salmonid fossil.

"During the time of the Yukons--the Eocene epoch--North America was situated farther north than it is today. Ending its 150-million-year-old union with Greenland, Europe and Asia, the supercontinent Laurasia was breaking apart and the future basins of the Atlantic and Arctic Ocenas were filling with inrushing sea water."

If I were forced to have two books about fish, this would be one. Salar the Salmon by Henry Williamson is the other.

01-16-2006, 03:27 AM
You've all answered my question brilliantly- thank you. Bob- I've ordered the book!

Tight Lines


02-05-2006, 12:39 AM
Eddie the McCloud and Shasta Rivers are in the Sierras the Russian is not.

02-10-2006, 02:53 PM
What interests me is that I believe rainbow trout are also native to Alberta on the eastern side of the continental divide e.g. Bow River which is a tributary of the Saskatchewan River. Therefore, they are not found only in the Pacific basin. To go further with this, I wonder why they did not naturally make it all the way to Hudson Bay. Any ideas?

03-24-2006, 06:56 PM
There are Rainbow found in Alberta, but none are natives. They, like all others found in North America outside of the Pacific basin, are transplants.

03-28-2006, 08:59 PM
Actually I am shocked to hear that rainbows are not native to the famous Bow. Of course, the Bow is at least as well known for its browns and they certainly are far removed from their native range. Anyway, I found a government of Alberta web site that says rainbows are native to Alberta but only to the Athabasca and Peace rivers which are in the MacKenzie drainage to the Arctic Ocean.