Rainbow trout are named for the bands of coloration along their sides. The body of the rainbow trout is typically dark on top with silver flanks and lighter undersides. Male rainbows have red stripes, especially during the spawning phase while females are less colorful.
In 1963, the “West Virginia Centennial Golden Trout” was released. The variation was a developed from an unusually colored specimen which appeared in a West Virginia trout hatchery. Later breeding produced a palomino trout. Several other states in the Mid Atlantic region now produce and stock golden or palomino rainbow trout in ponds and streams.
Golden rainbow trout should not to be confused with the true golden trout (Oncorhynchus aguabonita), which is found only in California.
A third form of rainbow trout is the steelhead. These special forms of rainbow trout leave coastal streams and rivers as juveniles to live in saltwater environments. Like their close relatives, the salmon, steelhead eventually return to freshwater to spawn. Steelhead typically live after spawning, unlike Pacific salmon.