Depending on where you go for information, you are likely to hear (or read) that there are 10 trout species—no, 13 species—or 12 species. It’s not easy to figure out what is what and why in the world of trout fishing.
For the record, the number of trout species is not known and is a constant source of disagreement. Fortunately, we know there are 14 species of trout in North America and somewhere around 50 species worldwide. As far as the ones in the west, they vary in size and color to a fairly wide degree.
If you speak to a scientist, who is pretty hardcore about their fish classifications, you may learn that some circles believe the brown trout is the only species of trout in the entire world. The rest qualify as nothing more than distant cousins. For our purposes, however, we’ll stick with 14.
14 Trout Species
Trout fishing is typically at the top of the list for any angler worth their salt. Most trout species are a blast to catch, pretty sizeable, and very delicious. They’re also an abundant species, so you don’t have to travel far or work your tail off trying to find them.
1. Rainbow Trout
The Rainbow Trout is probably one of the most well-known and instantly recognizable species of trout. They’re found mostly in the Pacific Ocean, specifically along the coastline as far north as you can travel down to the shorelines in Mexico.
There are two types of Rainbow Trout—Steelhead and Freshwater. Steelheads are also known as Anadromorous Rainbow Trout, and it’s easy to see why anglers just call them Steelheads. No one wants to try and tell a trout story while pronouncing ‘Anadromorous.’
2. Brook Trout
Another particularly popular trout among anglers is Brook Trout, which you can find in rivers and streams out west. Strangely enough, these fish have managed to survive over the centuries despite requiring several specific factors necessary to keep on swimming and breathing.
- Must have shallow pools for resting
- Streams have to be well oxygenated
- Only thrive in water environments cooler than 65.8°F
- No siltation (silt stir-up/water must be clear)
- A close feeding site near a riffle or water that’s flowing quickly
- They must have an escape route or cover at all times
Besides the Brook Trout’s incessant neediness, they are often thought of as the prettiest of the trout species, with dark green backs that change to silver as the color travels downward, toward the belly. Their heads have wavy line patterns that are off-white, and they have a wide spattering of red or blue spots.
3. Palomino Trout
Also known as Golden Rainbow Trout, Palomino Trout are known as hybrids—a mixture of traditional Golden Trout and Rainbow Trout. They have the faded colorations of Rainbow trout covered in a sheen of golden/yellow that lends a halo-like hue to their skin.
It’s a striking appearance, and they are popular among anglers who love trout. An adult Palomino gets pretty big, another reason for their popularity, sometimes topping out at nearly a yard long.
4. Brown Trout
Brown Trout have some scientists convinced that they are the only true trout species on the planet. Maybe so, but they’re fun to catch and eat either way. This species of trout is active, though they prefer slower-moving water and lakes.
Their visual aesthetic is fairly striking, with yellowish bodies punctuated by a series of red, white, and brown spots. Though most are relatively small, they’re known to reach 52lbs in size.
5. Lake Trout
A lot of anglers love to go ice fishing for Lake Trout. Their bodies are greenish silver and riddled with tiny, whitish spots. They weigh between 15 and 20lbs and are a species often found on the endangered list thanks to Sea Lamprey predation.
Because of their popularity among sport fishermen, Lake Trout have spread all over the world, with enthusiastic anglers introducing them to foreign waters fairly frequently. They do prefer to stay in cooler water, so prepare for deeper fishing in the summer months.
6. Tiger Trout
The Tiger Trout is more like a leopard trout. However, it’s easy to understand why it was named after big cats. Tiger trout have huge, gold-rimmed black spots all over their silverish bodies, providing them with an incredibly interesting aesthetic.
Unfortunately, they are sterile because they are bred by fish stockers all over the country using various methods. This also means that though they are popular sport fish, careful management of their numbers is a constant state of affairs.
7. Bull Trout
Bull trout have the look and color aesthetic of eels. They’re not necessarily ugly fish, but they certainly fail to stand out amongst their cousins. With brown-green skin and sickly yellow spots, Bull Trout can reach 12lbs and are fairly popular with anglers.
They are often found in Washington and Oregon, or you have to cross the northern border into Canada to fish in British Colombia. If you fish in lakes, you have a better chance of catching a larger one, since bull trout only reach a maximum of 9lbs in streams.
8. Marble Trout
You have to seek cold rivers and streams if you want to catch this pretty trout. Like their namesake, they have a marbled look to their blue-green skin, with veins of weight traveling across their bodies in craggy, angled patterns.
They do have red spots from time to time but they only display these spots on their lateral line. If you want to catch Marble Trout, the river or stream temperatures have to be below 60°F.
9. Cutthroat Trout
They’re not called cutthroat trout because they betray their own kind or go around slitting throats. Cutthroat Trout get their name from the bright pattern of red around their throat and gill area. There are also 9 or ten variations of the cutthroat species, so they are pretty diverse.
This trout species isn’t sought after too often as they frequently make their way onto endangered species lists. They grow to between 8 and 15 inches and live alone until the spawning season rolls around each year.
10. Golden Trout
We mentioned these earlier, as they are a part of the breeding programs for hybrid Palomino Trout. Golden Trout are a difficult catch because you have to go to high places to find them. Apparently, a Golden Trout will only grace a lake or river with its presence if it’s above 9,000’ in altitude.
They do swim in schools, however, making them a little easier to spot than some of their solitary cousins. The best time to set up a rig for Golden Trout is between May and September each year.
11. Apache Trout
These dark gray, silver, and yellow-green trout are covered in random black-dot spatterings. They also have a distinctive black band through each of their eyes. They can grow up to 24” in length so catching a grown-up is a tale worth telling.
Apache Trout fishing was banned for a time, replenishing the species to a large degree, and you can fish for Apache Trout on a limited basis in some areas of the west.
12. Gila Trout
Arizona is the state to be in if you want to catch Gila Trout. You can also find the species in New Mexico, but they are far more prevalent in Arizona. This yellowish trout with spots is best used as a baitfish, though you might get something out of a fully grown, nine-inch Gila if you catch about 30 of them.
Another hybrid on our list, the Splake Trout is the result of a female Lake Trout and a male Brook Trout. However, Splake are regularly produced and stocked in ponds, lakes, and rivers and successfully so since the mid-1800s.
It’s unknown if they can breed on their own (naturally) or not. Apparently, no one has ever taken the time in over a century to find out.
14. Dolly Varden Trout
Now, this is a truly unique-looking trout. Its silver-blue back gives way to a white belly but its skin is covered in peach-pink dots as well. They’re mostly found in Alaska and the Arctic Zone so prepare to bring a sweater or something to stay warm.
However, it’s been reported that they have migrated over into Japanese waters as well, so there is that option. They aren’t the largest of the trout species, with an adult male topping out at 10lbs or so.
There you have it, the 14 maybe or maybe not species of trout (mostly found in North America if they haven’t migrated or been transported). If you don’t belong to the “brown trout are the only real trout” crowd, then these are all, most definitely trout.
Most of them are more than worth casting a line as well, except for a small few, such as the Gila Trout, which is better as a bait fish more than anything else. Trout are undoubtedly some of the prettiest fish in the water—that much is certain.
So, if you’re on the lookout for a good trout fishing spot or you happen to catch one on accident, you have this little list to check up on to see what your good fortune brought you.
Visit the OutdoorWorld Reviews homepage for more expert information and guides!