Oncorhynchus mykiss
Oncorhynchus mykiss
(Rainbow Trout)
Native Transplant
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Oncorhynchus mykiss (Walbaum, 1792)

Common name: Rainbow Trout

Synonyms and Other Names: steelhead [anadromous form], coastal rainbow

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Moyle (1976a); Scott and Crossman (1973); Wydoski and Whitney (1979); Morrow (1980); Eschmeyer et al. (1983); Page and Burr (1991); Behnke (1992). Behnke (1992) gave accounts and drawings for several subspecies. A commonly used named for this species is Salmo gairdnerii, sometimes given as S. gairdneri.

Size: 114 cm

Native Range: Pacific Slope from Kuskokwim River, Alaska, to (at least) Rio Santa Domingo, Baja California; upper Mackenzie River drainage (Arctic basin), Alberta and British Columbia; endorheic basins of southern Oregon (Page and Burr 1991).

US auto-generated map Legend USGS Logo
Alaska auto-generated map
Hawaii auto-generated map
Caribbean auto-generated map
Puerto Rico &
Virgin Islands
Guam auto-generated map
Guam Saipan
Native range data for this species provided in part by NatureServe NS logo
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: The Rainbow Trout has been extensively stocked throughout the United States, in states including Alabama (Ayers 2001), Alaska (Morrow 1980); Alabama (Mettee 1978; Boschung 1992; Mettee et al. 1996; Behnke and Benson 1980); Arizona (Miller and Lowe 1967; Tyus et al. 1982; Minckley 1973; Tilmant 1999); Arkansas (Pritchard et al. 1976; Cross et al. 1986); California (Moyle 1976a; Moyle and Daniels 1982; Dill and Cordone 1997; Tilmant 1999; Swift 1993; ); Colorado (Vanicek et al. 1970; Everhart and Seaman 1971; Tyus et al. 1982; Wiltzius 1985; Propst and Carlson 1986; Rasmussen 1998; Tilmant 1999; Beckman 1952; Behnke and Benson 1980); Connecticut (Behnke and Wetzel 1960; Schmidt 1986; Whitworth 1996); Delaware (Raasch and Altemus 1991; Rohde et al. 1994); Florida (Eglin Air Force Base 1968); Georgia (Dahlberg and Scott 1971a, 1971b; Yerger 1977; Burkhead et al. 1997; Stripling 2001); Hawaii (Brock 1960; Maciolek 1984; Mundy 2005); Idaho (Idaho Fish and Game 1996; Campbell 2002); Illinois (Smith 1979; Burr and Page 1986; Underhill 1986; Burr 1991); Indiana (Sweeney 1902; Underhill 1986; Tilmant 1999); Iowa (Harlan and Speaker 1951; Smith 1979; Harlan et al. 1987); Kansas (Cross 1967; Cross et al. 1986); Kentucky (Clay 1962, 1975; Burr and Page 1986; Burr and Warren 1986; Powers and Ceas 2000); Louisiana (J. Forrester, personal communication); Maine (Kendall 1914a; Everhart 1950, 1976; Schmidt 1986); Maryland (Lee et al. 1976, 1981; Rohde et al. 1994; Starnes et al. 2011); Massachusetts (Hartel 1992; Cardoza et al. 1993; Hartel et al. 1996; Tilmant 1999; USFWS 2005); Michigan (Hubbs and Lagler 1947; Emery 1985; Underhill 1986; Tilmant 1999; Cudmore-Vokey and Crossman 2000; Mills 1993); Minnesota (Phillips et al. 1982; Burr and Page 1986; Underhill 1986; Tilmant 1999); Mississippi (Ross and Brenneman 1991); Missouri (Bean 1903; Pflieger 1971, 1975, 1997; Cross et al. 1986; Tilmant 1999); Montana (Brown 1971; Cross et al. 1986; Holton 1990; Tilmant 1999; Madison 2003; Marotz 2004; USFWS 2005); Nebraska (Jones 1963; Morris et al. 1974; Nebraska Game and Parks Division); Nevada (Smith 1896; Miller and Alcorn 1946; La Rivers 1962; Bradley and Deacon 1967; Deacon and Williams 1984; Sigler and Sigler 1987; Tilmant 1999; Insider Viewpoint 2001; USFWS 2005; Vinyard 2001); New Hampshire (Hoover 1936; Bailey and Oliver 1939; Scarola 1973; Schmidt 1986); New Jersey (Fowler 1952; Stiles 1978; Tilmant 1999); New Mexico (Koster 1957; Tyus et al. 1982; Sublette et al. 1990; Tilmant 1999); New York (Bean 1903; Werner 1980; Smith 1985; Schmidt 1986; Underhill 1986); North Carolina (Hocutt et al. 1986; Menhinick 1991; Rohde et al. 1994); North Dakota (Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Cross et al. 1986; North Dakota Game and Fish Department 1994); Ohio (Trautman 1981; Burr and Page 1986; Hocutt et al. 1986; Underhill 1986); Oklahoma (Hall 1956; Miller and Robison 1973; Cross et al. 1986); Oregon (State of Oregon 2000; Graham 2003; Li, personal communication; USFWS 2005); Pennsylvania (Bean 1892b; Denoncourt et al. 1975a; Hendricks et al. 1979; Cooper 1983; Hocutt et al. 1986; Underhill 1986; Sajna 1998; Tilmant 1999; Anonymous 2000; Phillips et al. 2003); Enoree River and the upper Saluda and Savannah River drainages in South Carolina (Dahlberg and Scott 1971a, 1971b; Loyacano 1975; Hocutt et al. 1986; Rohde et al. 1994; Rohde et al. 2009); South Dakota (Bailey and Allum 1962; North Dakota Game and Fish Department 1994); Tennessee (Kuhne 1939; Starnes and Etnier 1986; Etnier and Starnes 1993; Tilmant 1999); Texas (Knapp 1953; Conner and Suttkus 1986; Cross et al. 1986; Howells 1992a; Waldrip 1993; Whittier et al. 2000; Texas Parks and Wildlife Department 1993, 1994, 2001; Anonymous 1994); Utah (Sigler and Miller 1963; Vanicek et al. 1970; Tyus et al. 1982; Sigler and Sigler 1987, 1996; Tilmant 1999); Vermont (Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Underhill 1986); Virginia (Hocutt et al. 1986; Jenkins and Burkhead 1994; Rohde et al. 1994; Powers and Ceas 2000); Washington (USFWS 2005); West Virginia (Hocutt et al. 1986; Stauffer et al. 1995); Wisconsin (Eddy and Underhill 1974; Burr and Page 1986; Underhill 1986); Wyoming (Baxter and Simon 1970; Tyus et al. 1982; Hubert 1994; Tilmant 1999; Behnke and Benson 1980); and Puerto Rico (Erdsman 1984).

Means of Introduction: Beginning in the late 1800s, there have been many stockings of this species for sportfishing purposes by state and federal agencies and by private individuals, mostly into streams and spring branches. Some states stock on an annual basis.

Status: Established in many states, including Hawaii. Also frequently stocked in most states to replenish populations harvested by fishing pressures or in other areas where populations are not self sustaining. One specimen collected from Mississippi (Ross and Brenneman 1991). Stocked once, in 1991, in Louisiana. The stocking failed.

Impact of Introduction: The Rainbow Trout hybridizes with other, more rare trout species, thereby affecting their genetic integrity (Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Rinne and Minckley 1985; Page and Burr 1991). In California, Rainbow Trout have hybridized with Lahontan Cutthroat Trout O. clarki henshawi, Golden Trout O. aguabonita, and redband trout O. mykiss subsp. to the point that all three are included in the threatened trout management program of the California Department of Fish and Game (McAffee 1966b; Moyle 1976b; Behnke 1992). In the Lahontan drainage and various Rocky Mountain rivers, hybridization with Rainbow Trout has been a major factor in the decline of native cutthroat trouts (McAffee 1966a). Rainbow Trout have been shown to hybridize with Westslope Cutthroat Trout throughout the Flathead River system in Montana (Muhlfeld et. al, 2009). In Nevada, this species is also held responsible for the virtual extinction of Alvord cutthroat O. mykiss subsp. (Behnke 1992). In Arizona, the species has hybridized with native Gila Trout O. gilae and Apache Trout O. apache (Minckley 1973; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1979). Rainbow Trout have replaced Lahontan cutthroat trout in areas where the cutthroat is native and Rainbow Trout have been introduced (McAffee 1966b). Introduced Rainbow Trout, and other trout species, were likely responsible for the near-extinction of Lahontan cutthroat in Lake Tahoe in the 1940s (McAffee 1966b). Oncorhynchus clarkii lewisi hybridization with O. mykiss, and the resulting backcrossing to pure parent populations, has resulted in strong introgression toward both populations in the Upper Oldman River, Alberta, Canada (Rasmussen et al. 2010).

Rainbow Trout have been found to negatively affect Little Colorado Spinedace Lepidomeda vittata through predation and by affecting spinedace behavior. The trout occupied undercut banks that the spinedace normally used for refuge. As a result, spinedace were displaced from preferred microhabitats and pushed into open water, making them vulnerable to predation (Blinn et al. 1993). Thibault and Dodsen (2013) found significant habitat niche overlap between introduced Rainbow Trout and two native salmonids, Atlantic Salmon Salmo salar and Brook Trout Salvelinus fontinatlis, within eastern Quebec rivers, and increased habitat overlap between native salmonids in rivers containing Rainbow Trout.

Stocking of hatchery Rainbow Trout in rivers has led to introduction of whirling disease into open waters in approximately 20 states including, most recently, the Madison River and its tributaries in Montana (B. Nehring and R. White, personal communication). In the Madison River, the disease has reduced the Rainbow Trout population by 90% (White, personal communication). Rainbow Trout have the potential to consume native fishes and compete with native salmonids (Page and Laird 1993). Introduced Rainbow Trout eat endangered Humpback Chub Gila cypha in the Little Colorado River, and may exert a major negative effect on the population there (Marsh and Douglas 1997). Fausch (1988), Clark and Rose (1997), and numerous papers cited in both, discussed several factors affecting competitive interactions between Rainbow and Brook Trout. Rainbow Trout drive nongame fishes such as suckers and squawfish from feeding territories (Li, personal communication to P. Moyle in Moyle 1976a). Introduced predatory fishes, including the Rainbow Trout, are likely at least partially responsible for the decline of the Chiricahua leopard frog Rana chiricahuensis in southeastern Arizona (Rosen et al. 1995).

Remarks: Tyus et al. (1982) mapped the distribution of Rainbow Trout in the upper Colorado basin.

References: (click for full references)

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Hamblin, P.F., and P. Gale. 2002. Water quality modeling of caged aquaculture impacts in Lake Wolsey, North Channel of Lake Huron. Journal of Great Lakes Research 28(1):32-43.

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Thibault, I. and J. Dodson. 2013. Impacts of exotic Rainbow Trout on habitat use by native juvenile salmonid species at an early invasive stage. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 142(4):1141-1150. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00028487.2013.799516

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Other Resources:
Distribution in Illinois - Illinois Natural History Survey

Oncorhyncus mykiss - Global Invasive Species Database

Great Lakes Water Life Photo Gallery

FishBase Fact Sheet

Author: Fuller, P., J. Larson, A. Fusaro, T.H. Makled and M. Neilson

Revision Date: 11/4/2013

Citation Information:
Fuller, P., J. Larson, A. Fusaro, T.H. Makled and M. Neilson. 2017. Oncorhynchus mykiss. USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL.
https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=910 Revision Date: 11/4/2013

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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2017]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [3/24/2017].

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