Tonight’s Catch Carolina Rainbow Trout
THE RAINBOW TROUT
A native to the West Coast of North America from lower California to Alaska, the rainbow trout has been widely introduced throughout the southern Appalachians. In its native region, the sea-run (or anadromous) individuals are known as steelheads, while resident fish confined to fresh waters are known as rainbow trout. One of the most widely distributed trout species in the world, its adaptability to hatchery propagation is probably the single-most important factor determining its extensive use in stocking programs. Various strains of captive rainbow trout spawn at different times of the year from fall to late winter. Therefore, by selecting different rainbow strains, with different spawning times, culturists can “program” grow-out to match stocking needs throughout the year.
A beautiful fish, the rainbow’s name refers to its colorful pinkish-red band, which extends from its gill plate along its sides. Numerous blackish or brownish spots mark the back as well as the dorsal, adipose and caudal or tail fin. These spots are better developed on the tail fin in this species than on the brown trout. Spots on rainbow trout are generally small and very numerous, unlike brown trout which have larger less numerous spots. Trout is usually served seared with the skin on, however it can be grilled, baked or broiled just as well. The texture is light with small flake and the flavor is quite mild.
Unlike the other two trout species in South Carolina, wild rainbow trout normally spawn in late winter to early spring, generally in February and March. During the first year, the young feed on insects and other aquatic life until they grow four to five inches long. Wild rainbow trout in South Carolina grow slowly. When they are two years old, they will grow to seven or eight inches; and at three, they’ll grow to about nine or ten inches. In contrast, hatchery rainbow trout grow to about eight inches at one year of age, and by age two they are over 12 inches.