Rainbow Trout

Rainbow Trout

This trout is #1 trout species stocked throughout lakes and ponds in the southern section of Manitoba. A rainbow trout farmer's association exists in Minnedosa, Manitoba and many small lakes in the Minnedosa area are heavily stocked and harvested on a yearly base. 6-8" fish are worth approximately .75 cents a piece are stocked and depending upon the size of the slough, small lake farmers will harvest up to 5000, 12-13" fish at the end of the summer. It was though in the late 70's and early 80's that this fish was thought to be the basis of an aquaculture strategy/revolution for western Canada. Marketing and problems with predators made profitable farming difficult at best. I still believe trout farming with a fishing angle is a distinct opportunity in the region south of Riding Mountain National park. A little initiative and a bit of inventiveness will bring the area recognition for the enormous trout that it can grow. As a member of the trout farmers association I continue to buy and plant trout each year.

The rainbow trout occurs in both freshwater resident and anadromous, or sea-run, species. Seagoing rainbows, known as steelhead or steelhead trout, are not found in Manitoba. Much of the stock of Rainbow trout found in Manitoba come from as far away as South Dakota.

One of the top "stocked" freshwater sport fish, the rainbow is tolerant of moderate temperatures, which has allowed it to become available to many anglers around the world; this, plus its beautiful coloration and acrobatic tendencies when hooked, have helped make it a favorite in streams, rivers, and lakes. The flesh of Rainbow trout will vary from bright red in small lakes and stream populations (Many 'bows in the Duck mountains have red-ish flesh) to pink or white in large lake and river populations (many of the lakes in the Parkland region of Manitoba have trout which have a whiter flesh as a result of the large minnow populations which make up a majority of these trout forage) in which the diet is largely piscivorous.

Identification — Rainbow trout possess the typical elongated and streamlined salmonid form, although body shape and coloration vary widely and reflect habitat, age, sex, and degree of maturity. The body shape may range from slender to thick. The back may shade from blue green to olive. There is a reddish pink band along each side about the midline that may range from faint to radiant. The lower sides are usually silver, fading to pure white beneath.

Small black spots are present over the back above the lateral line, as well as on the upper fins and tail. In some locations, the black spots of adults may extend well below the lateral line and even cover the entire lower side. These spots may cover the entire body or may be more abundant near the tail. The spots characteristically extend onto the dorsal fin, the adipose fin, and the tail. Those on the tail radiate outward in an even, orderly pattern. . Rainbow trout are positively identified by the 8 to 12 rays in the anal fin, a mouth that does not extend past the back of the eye, and the lack of teeth at the base of the tongue.

The rainbow trout's coloration varies greatly with size, habitat, and spawning periods. Stream dwellers and spawners usually show the darkest and most vivid colors and markings. River or stream residents normally display the most intense pink stripe coloration and heaviest spotting, followed by rainbows from lake and lake-stream systems. People who fished Tokaruk in the early 90's( I first fished it in '92) know what a silvery rainbow looks like as opposed to the darker spotted bows that you'll hook in the Duck Mountains. Young trout will also display a type of "parm" mark common to most salmon species. These latter marks are interesting in so far that we have hypothesized a reproducing population in the Pine and Steeprock rivers because of the presence of these marks and the lack of any stocking in the previous year!

Size/Age — In general, large rainbows are caught in large bodies of water and small ones in streams and ponds. Stream-caught fish commonly weigh a pound or so, whereas fish from larger rivers and lakes commonly weigh between 2 and 4 pounds. Rainbows can live for 11 years but typically have a 4- to 6-year life span.

Habitat — Although rainbows do well in large lakes with cool, deep waters, they prefer moderately flowing streams with abundant cover and deep pools. In most streams they are found in stretches of swift-flowing water, at the edge of strong currents, and at the head of rapids or strong riffles. They prefer water temperatures of 55° to 64°F but can tolerate water to 70°F. In lakes they will inhabit primarily the 0-15ft range in a lake (points, changes in structure, large areas of bull rushes with access to deeper water etc. the list goes on and on). That's not say they won't be out in the middle of the lake cruising for insects, terrestrials, minnows etc.--- remember these fish are primarily fish of rivers --- and so are a bit out of place!

Life history/Behavior — Most rainbow trout planted in Manitoba are fry to fingerling size. Many fisheries manager have noted that fall stocking have been nearly as successful as spring stockings. Upon stocking, the small trout assemble in groups and seek shelter along the stream margins or protected lakeshore, feeding on crustaceans, plant material, and aquatic insects and their larvae. Rainbow trout rear in similar habitat for the first two or three years then move into the larger water of lakes and streams and turn more to a diet of fish, salmon carcasses, eggs, and even small mammals. This transition is an important one. As opposed to the opinion of some that trout in the Parkland region grow large because of large populations of gammarous scuds, scuds play a "part" in the growth of some of the largest Rainbow trout in Manitoba. The other "part" of the equation is that lakes in the Parkland region have enormous populations of stickle backs ( an enormous source of protein for growing trout). Tokaruk lake which is an excellent example of a lake which could grow huge trout in a short period of time is loaded with an enormous population of sticklebacks. Rainbow trout farmers in the Minnedosa area are especially aware of this fact as the best trout come from those lakes which have a large stickle back population!

It is felt that there are a couple of rivers in Manitoba which have self-reproducing populations: The pine and the Steeprock rivers are two rivers which have adequate water supply and cover/pools and food to support such a population. These trout are protected by a different fishing season than most other populations in the province. This season closes November 1st and re-opens on April 15th.

Food and feeding habits — Rainbows feed on a variety of food, mainly insects, crustaceans, snails, leeches, and other fish if available. Some studies have shown that they feed less often on the surface than either brown or brook trout.

Angling — The beauty, strength, endurance, and spectacular leaps of the rainbow trout and all of its variations and strains have endeared it to anglers. I seen anglers descend upon a lake like black cormorants when a lake is hot (Black cormorants do have a considerable impact upon farmed trout as well as trout stocked in lakes for angling --- in some cases not only by eating fishing but by spreading diseases through their defecation) Rainbows take lures, flies, and baits well, leap often, and fight hard no matter what their size, although larger individuals are especially exciting. Angling methods differ depending on whether the fish are found in rivers or lakes, and are similar to fishing for other trout species. Weighted spinners, wobbling spoons, streamer flies, Muddlers Minnows, and egg-imitation flies fished near the bottom are especially preferred in river and stream habitats. Flyware or hardware? I believe that flyware is the most effective and sporting --- but that's just an opinion! To become snobbish or elitist is not my objective..... catch them whatever way is most pleasurable and rewarding.

Manitoba has a large fly fishing fraternity which holds these trout in very high esteem. The Manitoba Fly Fishers Association MFFA has a large fraternity of fly anglers who dedicate themselves to the promulgation of this and other trout species. Other organizations like FLIPPR (Fish and Lake Improvement Plan for the Parkland Region) have it as their goal to not only improve the number of trouting opportunities that are open to people but also to establish new ones in the Parkland region of Manitoba eg. Patterson Lake is now open to angling. The Rainbow trout's reputation in southern Manitoba will continue to "grow" in large proportions!

Other places to angle: Whiteshell park area, Duck mountain park area, Porcupine mountains park area as well as numerous other lakes to the south of the Trans Canada. Where for the biggest? Probably two lakes.... East Blue (ultra clear) and Bower lake (ultra murky). Each of the prior are the most difficult to fish and hence do not usually make the top 7 or 5 etc. rainbow trout lakes in Manitoba. Lakes such as Tokaruk, Spear, Gull, Goose, Perch, Barbe, kormans are all great lakes as well but arguably not as good as the two previously mentionned because they are a bit easier to fish (But that's my opinion eh!).