Palomino Trout vs. Golden Rainbow Trout

Golden Rainbow Trout

Palomino Trout photo by Neil DeMaster

What Is A Palomino Trout?

The Palomino trout is actually a Rainbow Trout with a genetic yellow color mutation. They are the result of crossing Golden Rainbow Trout with a conventional Rainbow Trout. It’s incorrect to say that there’s no difference between a Palamino Trout and a Golden Rainbow Trout. Golden Rainbow Trout are a result of a selective breeding process described here. Palamino Trout are a result of crossing Golden Rainbow Trout back to conventional Rainbow Trout.

The resulting offspring is a shade lighter in color compared to the Golden Rainbow Trout, which has a deep golden pigmentation.

The Palomino Trout was developed at the  Benner Spring Research Station at Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.

Palomino trout were first stocked in Pennsylvania in 1967.

Since they are a hybrid, Palomino Trout has the advantage of some hybrid heterosis. They are more vigorous and have a faster growth rate than run-of-the-mill Rainbow Trout.

Palomino Trout are banana yellow from nose to tail, thus the Palomino epithet, like a Palomino horse. They also have a contrasting lateral line that can be anywhere from pink to scarlet in color and pinkish-tinged cheeks.

Do Palomino Trout Exist Naturally?

No, the Palomino Trout isn’t a natural fish. They are the result of the crossing of the West Virginia Golden Rainbow Trout and conventional Rainbow trout. They are a product of fish hatchery-controlled reproduction.

They are a hybrid within a species, though, so they are not sterile like; for instance, a mule is “A mule is the offspring of a donkey and a horse.“, so reproduction in the wild is theoretically possible. However, the odds are that any reproduction involving a Palomino Trout would also involve a conventional Rainbow trout as the other participant in the matter. This would further dilute the chances of achieving the golden color that originated with the offspring’s Golden Rainbow Trout ancestors.

Are Palomino Trout good to eat?

Yes, they are fine to eat. Their flesh is a little more orange than a conventional Rainbow Trout, but it makes fine table fare.

How Rare Is The Palomino Trout?

The following is a quote from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission website concerning Palomino Trout.

In Pennsylvania, the rise of the palomino rainbow trout stemmed from obtaining fertilized golden rainbow trout eggs from West Virginia. Subsequently, when these golden rainbow trout reached maturity, they were crossed with normally pigmented rainbow trout, and the offspring resulted in the development of the palomino rainbow trout. The initial stockings of palomino rainbow trout in Pennsylvania waters occurred during the 1967 season. At present, however, due to their more brilliant coloration, we use golden rainbow trout exclusively for production purposes rather than the lighter palomino rainbow trout.” Source

In my reading, I can not find instances where actual Palomino Trout are still being stocked anymore. The states that I can find information on are opting to stock Golden Rainbow Trout because of its brilliant golden color.

Photo of pair of trout caught from a Maryland stream-one a golden trout and the other a rainbow trout. The golden trout is a genetically modified rainbow trout and is stocked to delight anglers with its pretty color.

What Is A Golden Rainbow Trout?

The Golden Rainbow Trout or, more properly, West Virginia Golden Rainbow Trout results from selective breeding of Rainbow Trout descending from a single female with a golden-colored genetic mutation.

What does a Golden Rainbow Trout look like?

Golden Rainbow Trout have the same physical characteristics as ordinary Rainbow Trout except for a difference in coloration. Instead of silvery grey in color, they are a brilliant yellow or orange from head to tail. They also have pinkish lower fins and pink stains on their cheeks. The golden color is also broken by a pink to crimson stripe that runs down each side of their body, similar to conventional Rainbow trout.

Golden Rainbow Trout are different from California Golden Trout

West Virginia Golden Rainbow Trout should not be confused with California Golden Trout.

California Golden Trout occur naturally. They are native to the Kern River system in California. They’re also California’s state freshwater fish.

On the other hand, West Virginia Golden Rainbow Trout is the product of selective breeding at the Petersburg West Virginia fish hatchery.

Golden Rainbow Trout are actually more completely golden than is California Golden Trout.

Where did West Virginia Golden Rainbow Trout come from ?

In 1955 the fish hatchery manager at Petersburg, West Virginia, Noticed a fingerling Rainbow Trout among thousands of other fingerlings that sported a mottled golden color.

This uniquely colored fish was set aside in a separate holding pond where they could keep track of it. By 1956 the fish had grown to 14 inches, and its coloration had become a deep gold with a crimson lateral line.

Hatchery technicians determined that this uniquely colored fish was a female. This fact supplied them with an interesting opportunity.

In 1956, Petersburg hatchery personnel collected 900 eggs from the uniquely orange-colored female and fertilized them with milt from an ordinary male rainbow trout.

When the eggs hatched and the resulting fry grew into fingerlings, none of them showed any golden pigmentation at first. The experimental fish were placed in rearing ponds right along with all the conventional Rainbow Trout fingerlings since there was no golden color.

In 1957, hatchery attendants noticed that some of the trout in their rearing ponds turned a pale yellow. Within a couple of weeks, over 300 of them had turned a deep golden color.

In 1957 the West Virginia DNR began doing breeding trials with these golden-colored trout. They achieved a better than 90% success rate in producing fish with a golden color within two years.

In this experiment, the first resultant fish were small and poor doing, but through selective breeding, researchers improved these fish’ size and general vigor remarkably.

A few Golden Rainbow Trout were Stocked in West Virginia’s waters in 1962. In 1963 however that these fish were stocked across the state. This was West Virginia’s Centennial Year, and the Golden Rainbow was dubbed West Virginia’s centennial trout.

Do Golden Rainbow Trout exist naturally?

Yes, but they are extremely rare. The only documentation I can find is one hatchery manager stating that they might get one yellow fish for every five million Rainbow Trout eggs they receive. Source Logic tells me that if they exist in hatchery fish, they also exist in the wild.

Trout fry with yellow skin pigmentation has a big disadvantage when it comes to hiding from predators. The odds of one surviving to maturity in the wild are infinitesimally low.

If you catch a Golden Rainbow Trout, the odds are almost but not quite 100% that it is a hatchery-raised fish.

Hatchery raised or not; they’re an interesting, unique fish that anybody will be excited to pull from the water.

One final side note

The largest Golden Rainbow Trout that I can find on record is also the Pennsylvania state record. It weighed in at 13 pounds and eight oz. and was caught by Eli Borger of Palmerton, PA, in 2008. It’d be fun to have something like that hooked on to the end of your fishing line, wouldn’t it?

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