McCloud River Rainbow Trout

Piscifun fly fishing reels

McCloud River Rainbow TroutSalmo shasta (Jordan)


The home of the McCloud River Rainbow Trout is in the streams of the Sierra Nevadas from Mount Shasta southward the limits of its range not well known. It is best known from the McCloud River where it has been handled for many years in the fish-cultural operations of the United States Fish Commission, this being, in fact, the "rainbow trout" of fish-culturists.

Through the operations of the United States Fish Commission this trout has had its range greatly extended. It has been successfully transplanted into many mountain streams in different parts of the United States where it was not previously found, where it grows and multiplies rapidly, as is shown by the many favourable reports. The best results however seem to have been obtained from the plants made in Michigan, Missouri, Arkansas, throughout the Alleghany Mountain region, and in Colorado and Nevada. It was introduced into eastern watery in 1880. It is believed this species will serve for stocking streams formerly inhabited by the eastern brook trout in which the latter no longer thrives owing to the clearing of the lands about the sources of the streams, which has brought about changed conditions unfavourable to the eastern brook trout. The rainbow is adapted to warmer and deeper waters and is therefore suited to many of the now depleted streams which flow from the mountains through cultivated valleys.

Rainbow trout differ widely from brook trout and other pugnacious fishes in that they feed largely upon worms, larvae, crustaceans, and the like and do not take so readily to minnows for food. They should be planted in spring or early summer when their natural food is abundant. They will then grow more rapidly and become accustomed to life in the stream, and when worms, larvae, etc., are no longer to be found, their experience and size will enable them to take anything in the shape of food that may present itself. Fish hatched in December and January can be safely planted in April or May.

The size of the rainbow trout varies greatly, depending upon the volume and temperature of the water, and the amount and character of the food-supply. In the streams of the Sierras where it is native it reaches a length of 10 to 30 inches, and a weight of 2 to 8 pounds. The average weight of those caught from streams in the East is probably less than a pound, but examples weighing 6 3/4 pounds have been taken. In the Ozark region in Missouri they are caught weighing 5 to 10 pounds. In some of the cold mountain streams of Colorado their average weight is but 6 or 8 ounces, while in certain lakes in the same State, where the water is moderately warm, and food is plentiful they reach a length of 25 to 28 inches and a weight of 12 or 13 pounds. In the Au Sable River in Michigan they reach a weight of 5 to 7 pounds. The largest example ever produced in the U. S. Fish Commission ponds at Wytheville, Virginia, weighed 6 1/2 pounds.

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From American Game and Food Fishes. Jordan and Evermann, 1902.