There seems to be quite a bit of confusion about golden trout. What is a golden trout, and what is not.
Is the bright yellow trout stocked in some areas a golden trout? Well, I hope to answer all these questions and more.
What is a golden trout?
There are four naturally occurring species or subspecies which are known as golden trout.
All species (or subspecies) of golden trout are closely related to Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)
The best known golden trout is the California golden trout. Some experts classify the Californian golden trout as its own species (Oncorhynchus aguabonita), while others argue that it is a subspecies of the Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss aguabonita). There might never be a concrete answer on how best to classify the species status of golden trout.
The California Golden Trout is endemic to and found in the Golden Trout creek, Volcano creek and the South Fork of the Kern River in California.
It is also closely related to the Little Kern Golden Trout (O. m. Whitei), and the Kern River rainbow trout (O. m. Gilberti). All three form the Golden Trout species complex.
Finally, there is the Mexican golden trout (Oncorhynchus chrysogaster), which lives in an extremely limited number of sights within Sierra Madre Occidental, Mexico.
Are golden trout the same as palomino trout?
I think we have all seen the photos, some of us might have even caught one. What are these bright yellow trout which are frequently stocked in some locations?
Palomino trout are not golden trout. They are a color mutation of the rainbow trout which have been selectively bred in hatcheries due to their striking appearance which makes them look like a banana.
So, Golden rainbow trout, palomino trout, and banana trout are all different names for color mutations of Rainbow trout. Many experts consider all three the same. Just color mutations of O. Mykiss.
But, things are never quite that simple.
According to the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission, there is a slight difference between a golden rainbow trout and a palomino trout.
Golden rainbow trout are the product of many generations of selective breeding to select for the brilliant yellow color.
Palomino trout, at least the ones released into Pennsylvania are a cross between the naturally pigmented rainbow trout and the brilliant yellow golden rainbow trout.
What are blue trout?
Blue pigmented coloration in trout is a naturally occurring genetic mutation, which occurs in about 1 in 130,000 rainbow trout. It is even rarer still among brown trout and other salmoinadaes.
Blue trout are extremely rare and are normally kept as a novelty attraction by hatcheries. I remember seeing one in a hatchery pool as a child and taking this very blurry photo of it.
Some blue trout are sold by privately run hatcheries for a premium, so there might be a small chance to catch one in some privately stocked waters.
While blue trout are naturally occurring, the color is highly visible to predators so they are unlikely to survive into adulthood.