Rainbow trout

General information about rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), a cold-water fish species in Alberta.



  • This trout is an olive-green colour with heavy black spotting over the length of the body.
  • The adult fish has a red-coloured stripe along the lateral line, from the gills to the tail.
  • Rainbow trout in lakes are usually lighter coloured or a more silvery colour than those in streams.


  • In Alberta, this trout was originally found only in parts of the upper Athabasca River Basin and upper Peace River Basin.
  • The Fish and Wildlife Division stocks rainbow trout in a variety of lakes across the province. Rainbow trout are easy to raise in hatcheries, and are a very hardy and active sport fish.

Natural History


  • Rainbow trout prefer stretches of cool, oxygen rich, swift flowing water and can be found in open, meadow streams.


  • Diet includes:
    • Aquatic insects, mainly small shrimp
    • Leeches
    • Snails
    • Other fishes and fish eggs

Reproduction and Growth

Breeding Behaviour

  • Wild rainbow trout spawn in the spring, but fish culturists have developed fall spawning races of the species, allowing fish hatcheries to raise young fish over the winter so they can be released at a catchable size in the spring.

Conservation and Management


Wild rainbow trout are currently classified as May Be at Risk in the 2005 General Status of Alberta Wild Species report, whereas introduced stocks of this species are listed as Secure. See:

Native rainbow trout populations in the Athabasca river basin are classified as Threatened under Alberta's Wildlife Act. The Alberta government has created a multi-stakeholder recovery team to prepare a recovery plan for this species. See:


  • The integrity of native stocks of Rainbow Trout within the historical distribution in Alberta (Athabasca River) are threatened by interbreeding with introduced trout.

Current management


Rainbow trout are cold-water game fish subject to current Alberta sportfishing regulations. For details, see the My Wild Alberta website at:

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