Species overview. The golden rainbow trout is a gold-orange rainbow trout raised under artificial fish culture conditions and stocked as a novelty for angling sport. The golden rainbow was developed from one fish, a single female trout with a genetic mutation that gave her a mixed golden and normal rainbow trout coloration. She was found in the West Virginia hatchery system in 1954. Through selective breeding with regularly marked rainbow trout, an all-gold, golden rainbow trout was developed. In 1963, this fish strain was popularized as the “West Virginia Centennial Golden Trout.” Pennsylvania and other states hybridized the pure strain of West Virginia golden trout with normal rainbows and produced palomino trout, which were true genetic palominos. Palomino trout were first stocked in Pennsylvania in 1967. Since then, the genetic strain in Pennsylvania has weakened, but in recent years the hybrid was selectively bred back closer to the stronger, better-colored golden rainbow trout. Although palominos were stocked as both average-sized and large trout, today’s golden rainbow is raised only to trophy size for anglers and stocked throughout the state.
The golden rainbow trout is a different species than the golden trout (Oncorhynchus aguabonita) of some California streams. In fish hatcheries, the rainbow trout has occasionally produced other unusual genetic mutations, such as the blue rainbow trout, whose body color is sky-blue.
Identification: Golden rainbows are a deep golden-yellow in body color, with pinkish lower fins, pink or red tones on their cheeks and with the rainbow’s reddish lateral stripe. There is no spotting on the body or fins. The Pennsylvania record golden rainbow trout is over 13 pounds.
Life history: The golden rainbow is reared in fish culture stations. Spawning in the wild is unlikely, because golden rainbows are highly visible in streams both to anglers and predators like blue herons and ospreys. Golden rainbows and palomino rainbows grow larger and faster than regular rainbows. They have “hybrid vigor,” a trait often seen in crossbred plants and animals. Their food preferences are similar to those of other trout.
Gallery of Pennsylvania Fishes Chapter 15