Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) get their name from the rainbow-colored lateral band down the middle of each side. The dorsal, adipose, and caudal fins are spotted. They look very similar to Ohio's brook and brown trout, but they do not have the rainbow band or the spots on the caudal fin. They are also referred to as the "steelhead" trout.
Although native to western coastal United States and Alaska, rainbow trout have been introduced to cold, clear water with a swift current throughout North America. Their typical diet consists of mayflies, caddis flies, stoneflies and their larvae, small mollusks and fishes.
Spawning begins in February and continues through April. Typically, 500-9,000 eggs are laid. After hatching, they will mature to a body length of 20 - 23 inches and average four pounds in weight.
Rainbow trout were introduced into Ohio in 1884 when S.B. Smith "obtained 68,000 rainbow trout fry from Michigan; 5,200 of these were planted in the Blue Jacket [Logan County] a tributary of the [Great] Miami River, and some have been caught there weighting over one-half pound each." Rainbow trout eggs were also shipped from Michigan the following years to areas in and around Lake Erie as well as sportsman clubs in Ohio, including the Cold Creek Trout Club (later renamed to Cold Creek Sporting Club) and the Castalia Trout Club. Since the 1880s, rainbow trout has been introduced throughout the state by federal, state, local and private agencies and individuals. Many of these introductions were not successful because the waters in most of Ohio get too warm during the summer. Steelheads are anadromous. Natural spawning is difficult in Ohio because of dams preventing their migration.
Since 1940, rainbow trout have outnumbered brook and brown trout. The Castalia Trout Club (Cold Creek) and the Zanesfield Rod and Gun Club in Logan County are the only areas in Ohio where the rainbow reproduce naturally and are permanently established. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources annually stocks trout in a number of lakes in southeastern Ohio, and tributary streams of Lake Erie. They also stocked rainbows in the Mad River until 1984, after which only brown trout have been stocked in the Mad. Trout of all species are very popular game fish both for their flavor and fight. Hundreds of fisherman eagerly wait for stockings to occur and rush to the areas. For several years there has been a daily bag limit of only five of all trout species. However, such regulations may change annually, and you should check with the ODNR for current regulations.
Ohio's record rainbow trout was caught in Lake Erie in Ashtabula County on October 2, 1996. It was 36.5 inches long and weighed 20.97 pounds.