Palomino Trout: What Are They and How to Catch Them

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It’s not uncommon to find gold in the mountain streams and rivers of the Appalachian mountains, but many anglers venture into these hills in search of a different kind of gold.

The golden rainbow trout is one of the most unique fish in North America and has captured the attention of anglers for more than half a century.

These fish are also known as “bananas” or “lightning trout”, and they are known for their distinctive bright yellow coloration. This golden coloring comes from breeding a West Virginia rainbow trout with a classically colored rainbow trout to create this striking hybrid.

Palomino Trout or Golden Rainbow Trout

palomino trout image

Their origins can be traced back to the Mountain State of West Virginia, and they are vastly different in appearance from any other fish you’ll find in the state. The emergence of the golden rainbow trout began in 1955 when workers at a fish hatchery noticed a unique fish that stood out from the rest. 

The hatchery-raised rainbow trout, but this one bright fish appeared quite different. Instead of having the same pigmentation as a regular rainbow trout, the trout’s body color was bright yellow. This was due to an extremely rare genetic mutation that normally pigmented rainbow trout do not possess.

Palomino Trout vs Rainbow Trout

This one fish was taken and studied by scientists who worked to produce a new species of golden trout through selective breeding with typical rainbow trout. By selectively breeding this single rainbow trout, the golden rainbow trout originated and has since become one of the most sought-after trout species in fly fishing.

Through these cross breed species of such bright fish, biologists have gone on to produce vast numbers of self-sustaining populations in small creeks throughout North America. The golden rainbow trout or palomino trout has now become one of the most popular trophy fish in the country.

It’s one of the most famous trout species in sport fishing or fly fishing and is sought by nearly every avid angler with a fly rod. From one single fish in West Virginia, an entirely new cross breed has emerged and is bred and sold from fish hatcheries all throughout the United States.

The golden rainbow trout is a beautiful fish that’s known by a number of different names, such as the palomino trout, palomino rainbow trout, golden rainbow, banana trout, golden trout, golden rainbows, and lightning trout. They are also sometimes even called swimming bananas.

Palomino Trout Facts

This article covers all the facts and information you need when it comes to fishing for golden rainbow or palomino trout.

Where to Find Palomino Trout

Palomino trouts have been stocked from various fish hatcheries throughout West Virginia and other states in the eastern part of the country. They are now commonly found in West Virginia and have self-sustaining populations of palomino trout all throughout the Great Lakes region and even the Pacific Northwest.

Golden rainbow trout can usually be caught in most areas where you might expect to find other trout, especially brown trout, brook trout, lake trout, and even salmon species like cutthroat trout. Palomino trout are capable of living their entire life in the wild and can reproduce, unlike other hybrid species like tiger trout.

Palomino Trout Characteristics

Palomino trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss aguabonita) are very similar in their physical appearance to other trout species. Despite being such bright fish, their physical traits – skin color aside – look almost indistinguishable from that of brook trout and regular rainbow trout, as well as brown trout.

Golden rainbow trout, much like rainbow trout and brown trout, will develop a large hooked jaw as they mature. Like other trout, palomino trout have a similar adipose fin, which is found between the dorsal fin and the caudal fin, or tail.

Golden trout are known for having white-colored edges around their dorsal fin, lateral fin, and anal fins. Like rainbow trout, palomino trout also have dark green coloring along the top of their backs. Palomino trout are known to have intersecting horizontally-aligned ovals that are known as parr marks. These fish also sport dark spots along their backs and sides as well.

The palomino trout is known to have red horizontal marks along their lateral line, which is very similar to rainbow trout, which they are closely related to, and also have a purple or reddish lateral line. The belly of golden trout can be a pink or orange color, which becomes more vibrant in spawning males.

Palomino trout are known to grow much larger and faster than regular rainbow trout due to hybrid vigor, which is also known as heterosis. Hybrid vigor is an enhanced function of the palomino trouts’ biological systems as a result of hybrid breeding.

The world record palomino trout is a Pennsylvania fish that weighed 13 lbs, 8 ounces. The fish was caught in Mahoning Creek, Pennsylvania. The population of golden trout in Mahoning Creek is higher in concentration than in any other stream in the world.

How to Catch Palomino Trout

The best method of catching palomino trout is virtually the same techniques you might employ for targeting rainbow trout or brook trout, and even lake trout. They are known to feed voraciously on salmon eggs and, like other species of trout, will strike at many different types of flies and spinner lures.

Palomino trout are known to be much harder to catch than rainbow trout, brook trout or brown trout, but this is mainly thought to be due to the fact that they get more pressure. Like tiger trout, golden rainbow trout are easily spotted in any stream, which means anglers will be able to see them (particularly if using polarized fishing sunglasses) and cast to them effectively.

Catching Palomino Trout on the Fly

The techniques and presentations you might use to catch palomino trout are virtually the same as what you might use for rainbow trout or other species. Some anglers in states like West Virginia have learned that these fish are so highly targeted by other anglers that they have to resort to using flies or nymphs that are very different than what they might normally cast at native brook trout or rainbows.

You’ll want to use dry flies for palomino trout much like you would any other species. It’s also a good idea to fish with streamers that are different than what other anglers are throwing, as the palomino trout in any stream might take an interest in different colors that they are not so used to seeing.

This is a great strategy for states such as West Virginia, where palomino trout are very highly-pressured. The only way to guarantee that you’ll have a greater chance of catching palomino trout when fishing in a popular area is to get to the best locations as early as possible, right before the fish are stocked.

Catching Palomino Trout on Lure

Many anglers that fish for lake trout often use various lures to catch them. Although there are not any known palomino trout in the Great Lakes, you can catch them in some lakes throughout this area. It’s best to use lures like worms or insects to catch palomino trout in lakes as well as streams.

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Donny Karr is a respected fishing writer and passionate fisherman who loves targeting largemouth bass and a range of other species. He's a specialist on using the latest gear and techniques to boost fishing success.
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