Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Rainbow Trout are the smaller variety, found only in freshwater. Steelhead spend their adult lives in the ocean, but return to spawn in the streams in which they were hatched. Rainbow trout have been introduced to at least 45 countries, and every continent except Antarctica. They occur in cool streams up to 4500 m in elevation.
Rainbows and steelhead have small black spots along their back, dorsal fin and caudal fin. Rainbows have a pink streak that runs from the gill cover to the caudal fin. The color of a rainbow's back varies from blue or green to a yellow-green or brown. Steelhead usually lack the pink stripe, except when young or spawning, and have chrome-colored sides. Rainbows are distinguished from their cousins, the cutthroat trout, by their short maxilla, which reaches to, but not past the rear margin of the eye. Rainbow trout also lack hyoid teeth, a feature present in cutthroat trout.
Rainbows range from 30 to 45 cm (12 to 18 inches) in length. Steelheads grow longer, ranging from 50 to 100 cm (20 to 40 inches) in length. Steelhead range in weight from 2.5 kg to 10 kg.
Like salmon, steelhead are anadromous: they return to their original hatching ground to spawn. Different populations of steelheads migrate upriver at different times of the year. Summer-run steelhead migrate between May and October, before their reproductive organs are fully mature. They mature in freshwater before spawning in the spring. Winter-run steelhead mature fully in the ocean before migrating, between November and April, and spawn shortly after returning. Unlike salmon, steelhead are iteroparous and may make several spawning trips between fresh and salt water.
Redband trout, sometimes called "Redsides," are another subspecies of Rainbow Trout and are typically found further inland than regular Rainbow Trout.
Rainbow trout as food
Rainbow trout is popular in Western cuisine and is often farmed for food. It has tender flesh and a mild, somewhat nutty flavour. However, farmed trout and those taken from certain lakes have a pronounced muddy flavour which many people find unappealing; many shoppers therefore make it a point to ascertain the source of the fish before buying.
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