Coloration can vary. Most mature rainbows, however, have a distinguishable red or pink streak on their side from head to tail. The body is a gray-blue or olive above the lateral line and a silver color below. The body, dorsal fin and tail have black or brown dots. Wild rainbow will often have white-tipped fins.
Rainbow trout tend to be shallow to mid-depth "bottom feeders," which makes them easier for shore anglers to catch. They also feed year-round and are a favorite target of ice fishermen. This is probably the most popular fish in the trout family, because it is typically easier to catch, has exceptional strength and is noted for its showy jumping. And, as with all trout, its culinary qualities are excellent. The rainbow, however, does not compete well with other fish, particularly the Utah chub.
The world record for an inland lake is a 37-pound rainbow caught in Idaho in 1947. The Utah record is 26 pounds, 2 ounces. The fish was caught in Flaming Gorge in 1979. Recently, two large rainbows were pulled from Strawberry. The first was 18 pounds, 2 ounces, the second 17 pounds, 6 ounces. Typically, the fish range between 1 and 4 pounds.
Rainbow are relatively easy to raise in hatcheries and are therefore widely stocked. They can be found in most of the larger streams, lakes and reservoirs in Utah. All major reservoirs along the Wasatch range have healthy populations of rainbows. Because they do not feed well in warmer waters, they are stocked in lower elevation urban waters in the spring and fall. Utah's most productive rainbow fisheries are Flaming Gorge, Scofield, Otter Creek and Minersville reservoirs, and Panguitch Lake. Stream and river fishermen typically find good fishing on the Weber, Provo and Green River below Flaming Gorge Dam.
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Rainbow feed by cruising close to the bottom, but are quick to come to the surface to snag an insect. Therefore, baits such as worms, salmon eggs and PowerBait fished with a sinker work well. It is important to pay attention to just how deep the bait or lure is getting. Flies, such as Crystal Killer, leeches, damsel, nymphs and mayfly emergers, fished with a bubble full of water, are a good choice. A partially filled bubble, trailed by a dry Renegade, black ant or Elk Hair Caddis, tend to work well when the fish come to the surface to feed in the evenings. When fishing rivers, try lures such as Mepps or Panther Martin spinners fishing upstream and dragged downstream. Baits, such as worms, salmon eggs and cheese work well in moving water. Fish these through holding water with a sinker. The choice of flies for rainbow in streams depends on the season, but San Juan worms, sow bugs and glow bugs trailed by a midge or caddis or mayfly emerger are always a good choice. Attractor dry flies like Royal Stimulator, Yellow Goofus and grasshopper will bring rainbow to the surface during the daylight hours. Matching the hatch of mayflies, caddis and stone flies works best during mornings and evenings.
Note. The DWR will begin stocking only sterile rainbow in 2008. There are few waters with naturally spawning rainbow in Utah.
Byron Gunderson, Fish Tech Outfitters, contributed to this story.