Common Family: The Trout Family
Common Name: Golden Rainbow Trout
Scientific Name: Oncorhynchus mykiss, color variant
Golden rainbow trout, also known as Centennial trout, banana trout and other names, evoke a true West Virginia legend. In fall 1949, the Petersburg State Trout Hatchery in Grant County received 10,000 rainbow trout fry from a California strain as a gift from the White Sulphur Springs Federal Hatchery. Less than 300 survived, but those fish were bred over the years to create a brood stock that went on to produce a single embryo that started the golden strain. The first golden rainbow, “Little Camouflage,” was a product of this work.
The golden rainbow was introduced to the public in 1963 as part of West Virginia’s Centennial celebration. The legacy continues with the annual Gold Rush fishing event held statewide each spring. Golden rainbow trout are not albino, nor are they to be confused with the true golden trout of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, a subspecies of the rainbow trout. Golden rainbow trout are in fact a mutated strain of the rainbow trout and have been selectively and successfully bred for their golden pigmentation by WVDNR biologists.
Requiring the same habitat, you will often find golden rainbows alongside rainbow trout. They prefer clean, cold and highly oxygenated waters for long term survival. Being so vividly colored, the fish tend to congregate in shadier areas, enabling them to hide from predators and anglers alike.
Golden rainbow trout exhibit the same spawning tendencies as rainbow trout. They develop redds at the tail of pools. This area of a stream or creek allows for oxygenation and keeps the redd free of silt.
Today, the Petersburg and Reeds Creek Hatcheries supply fertilized eggs from female golden rainbow trout to the state’s other hatcheries. The hatcheries supply about 80,000 eggs each year with nearly 40,000 fish stocked annually.
West Virginia’s state record for golden rainbow trout is 9.31 pounds for weight and 27.5 inches for length. Both these fish were caught in impoundments. The world record is a Pennsylvania catch measuring 31 inches and weighing 13.11 pounds. Many anglers suggest that golden rainbow trout are more difficult to catch, in part because of their reputation as finicky eaters. There are a wide variety of fish tales as to why they are more finicky eaters and some solid truths to this notion. Being bright golden, the fish sticks out to anglers, and any angler after seeing this brightly colored fish has likely thrown an entire tackle box worth of baits and lures to it, like the many anglers before. If you are looking to pursue this elusive catch, West Virginia holds an annual “Gold Rush” event, where the state stocks over 35,000 golden rainbows across the state.
Male golden rainbow trout, like rainbows, develop hooked jaws during the spawning season.