Rainbow Trout

Rainbow trout in the hands of an angler
Rainbow trout in the hands of an angler
 

Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) are native to North America in waters which drain to the Pacific Ocean from northern Mexico to Alaska. Of the nonnative fish in Yellowstone, the rainbow trout has the closest origin. As the most adaptable members of the trout family, they have been successfully introduced throughout the world.

Description

  • Silvery body, red lateral band, often white on the edge of lateral fins.
  • Numerous spots on head and back, none on belly

Behavior

  • Spring spawning between April and July. Select populations spawn in fall.
  • Eats aquatic and terrestrial insect, crustaceans, mollusks and earthworms.
  • Eat more algae than other trout.

Distribution

  • Widely distributed due to historic stocking efforts.
  • Not present in Yellowstone Lake.
  • Not present in the Yellowstone River above the upper Falls or the Snake River.
 
 
Hybrid fish of a cutthroat trout and rainbow trout
Cutthroat x rainbow trout hybrid

NPS

 
An underwater view of a spotted fish with a red slash on its neck and side swims above pebbles

Fish and Aquatic Species

Native fish underpin natural food webs and have great local economic significance.

Young cutthroat trout in a shallow creek

Fisheries & Aquatic Sciences Program

Explore the National Park Service science program for fish and aquatic species.

Spawning lake trout

Lake Trout

Lake trout prey on Yellowstone cutthroat trout.

Brook trout swimming

Brook Trout

Eastern brook trout was the first nonnative species introduced in Yellowstone—stocked in the (then fishless) Firehole River in 1889.

Head and body of a brown trout laying on the ground

Brown Trout

The brown trout is the only nonnative fish species in Yellowstone that is not native to North America.

Lake chub held in hand

Lake Chub

Native to the Missouri and Yellowstone river drainages in Montana and Wyoming, the lake chub is not native to Yellowstone National Park.

Two shells sit on a dime and are about the same height as the coin

New Zealand Mud Snails

New Zealand mudsnails are invasive and have a significant detrimental effect on Yellowstone.

Two speckled fish with black tails swim in a colorful streambed

Whirling Disease

Whirling disease can infect some trout and salmon.

Brightly-clothed people in a river near a steaming thermal feature

Red-rimmed Melania

Red-rimmed melania, a small snail, was discovered in a warm swimming area.

Angler fishing in Yellowstone

Fishing

Cast your line for 16 species of fish.

Zebra mussel infestation

Clean, Drain, & Dry

Learn how you can help prevent damaging aquatic invasive species from reaching Yellowstone.

 

Resources

Bigelow, P.E. 2009. Predicting areas of lake trout spawning habitat within Yellowstone Lake, Wyoming. Doctoral dissertation, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY.

Gresswell, R.E. 2009. Scientific review panel evaluation of the National Park Service lake trout suppression program in Yellowstone Lake, August 25–29, 2008: Final report, October 2009, Edited by USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center. Bozeman, MT.

Koel, T.M., P.E. Bigelow, P.D. Doepke, B.D. Ertel, and D.L. Mahony. 2005. Nonnative lake trout result in Yellowstone cutthroat trout decline and impacts to bears and anglers. Fisheries 30(11):10–19.

Koel, T.M., P.E. Bigelow, P.D. Doepke, B.D. Ertel, and D.L. Mahony. 2006. Conserving Yellowstone cutthroat trout for the future of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem: Yellowstone’s Aquatic Sciences Program. Yellowstone Science 14(2).

Middleton, A.D., T.A. Morrison, J.K. Fortin, M.J. Kauffman, C.T. Robbins, K.M. Proffitt, P.J. White, D.E. McWhirter, T.M. Koel, D. Brimeyer, and W.S. Fairbanks. 2013. Grizzly bears link non-native trout to migratory elk in Yellowstone. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 280:20130870.

Munro, A.R., T.E. McMahon, and J.R. Ruzycki. 2006. Where did they come from?: Natural chemical markers identify source and date of lake trout introduction in Yellowstone Lake. Yellowstone Science 14(2).

Wyoming Water Project. 2014. Science supporting management of Yellowstone Lake fisheries: Responses to frequently asked questions. Trout Unlimited: Lander, WY.

Ruzycki, J.R., D.A. Beauchamp, and D.L. Yule. 2003. Effects of introduced lake trout on native cutthroat trout in Yellowstone Lake. Ecological Applications 13:23–37.

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168

Phone:

(307) 344-7381

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