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Redband trout
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Salmoniformes
Family: Salmonidae
Genus: Oncorhynchus
Species: O. mykiss
Subspecies: O. m. gairdnerii
O. m. newberrii

Trinomial name
Oncorhynchus mykiss gairdnerii
(Richardson, 1836)
Oncorhynchus mykiss newberrii
(Girard, 1859)

Redband trout is a fish name that may be a synonym for the rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss, but is also used more narrowly for inland subspecies with well-defined geographical distributions in the United States. These include Columbia River redband trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss gairdnerii, found in Montana, Washington and Idaho, Oncorhynchus mykiss stonei found in small tributaries of the McCloud River as well as similar fish in the Pit River system -- the McCloud and Pit are tributaries of California's Sacramento River -- and the Great Basin redband trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss newberrii, found in southeastern Oregon, and parts of California and Nevada on the periphery of the Great Basin, but not the deep interior where Cutthroat Trout -- Oncorynchus clarkii -- are endemic. Redband trout are prized game fish.

Throughout its distribution, the redband trout has been facing declines due to altered or destroyed habitats, introduction of exotic and hatchery raised fish species, and seasonal drought, but as of 2000, the population of Great Basin redband trout was not a candidate for listing as threatened or endangered by the standards established by the United States Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service.

Physical characteristics

The redband trout is generally similar in appearance to the rainbow trout but can be differentiated by having larger, more rounded spots, parr marks that tend to remain into adulthood, are more orange-red around the lateral line, and have very distinct white tips on the anal, dorsal, and pectoral fins. They will exceed 10 inches (25 cm) at maturity, which they reach within in 3 years. Both redband trout subspecies find their ideal habitat in clean, cool, relatively small and low gradient streams, but are capable of enduring higher water temperatures (75–80 °F; 24–27 °C) than other trout that may co-habit the same streams. As with other trout, they feed on insects, crustaceans, and forage fish depending on their size.

Redband trout spawn from late April through mid-June depending on water temperatures and levels. The fry (young fish) typically emerge from the gravel in which the eggs were laid in mid-July.

Further reading

  • Behnke, R.J. 1992. Native Trout of Western North America. American Fisheries Society Monograph 6. Bethesda, MD. (From the American Fisheries Society Website: This book results from almost four decades of research and practical experience with this group of fishes. This work addresses the evolution, taxonomy, and present distributions of members of this group of fishes (cutthroat, rainbow, Gila, and related indigenous troutof the West), and proposes a conservation philosophy to sustain them.)
  • Muhlfield, Clint. [n.d.] Status of Redband Trout in Montana (This document, written by an agent from Montana’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and found on the website of the Montana Chapter of the American Fisheries Society, provides a concise overview of the status, characteristics, threats and management practices of the Redband trout.)
  • Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-399). Passed October 30, 2000. (While not an officially designated threatened or endangered species, the Redband Trout is recognized as important resource, and this law sets aside land in Oregon for protection and research of Redband Trout.)
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