Palomino Trout: Unveiling the Unique Colorful Fish

palomino trout

Palomino trout have caught my attention recently due to their vibrant yellow color and unique features, making them stand out from other trout species. These hybrid fish are a result of a cross between a rainbow trout and a California golden trout, which gives them their distinctive appearance. As an angler, I find their rarity and beauty to be both intriguing and challenging.

When it comes to fishing for palomino trout, I’ve discovered that they can be a bit more challenging to catch than their rainbow trout counterparts. These strong, striking-looking fish are often considered trophy fish among fellow anglers. In my search to catch these elusive creatures, I’ve learned the importance of understanding their behavior, habitat, and preferred bait.

Finding palomino trout can be somewhat of a quest, as they are typically stocked in select streams and rivers in the eastern United States. To better my chances, I often reach out to local hatcheries to learn about their stocking plans for the year. The excitement of potentially landing a palomino trout has made this adventure even more worthwhile for me, as I continually expand my skills and knowledge as an angler.

Palomino Trout Origins

Genetic Mutation

In the 1950s, a genetic mutation occurred in a rainbow trout, giving it a golden pigmentation. This unique golden rainbow trout was first noticed in a fish hatchery in West Virginia, where its distinct color made it stand out from the rest. The golden rainbow trout is a result of this natural genetic mutation.

Selective Breeding

To create the palomino trout, hatchery workers bred the golden rainbow trout with other rainbow trout with normal pigmentation. Through selective breeding, they eventually produced a lighter-colored hybrid; the palomino trout we see today. The palomino trout was first introduced into public waters in 1963.

Relation to Rainbow Trout

Palomino trout share a close relation with rainbow trout, as they are a product of their breeding. They belong to the same species, Oncorhynchus mykiss, but exhibit a different color pattern due to the original genetic mutation in the golden rainbow trout.


Palomino trout are a hybrid species that originated through the breeding of rainbow trout and golden rainbow trout. Today, they are artificially bred in various hatcheries in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia. Although these hybrid trout are found in multiple locations, their origins can still be traced back to that one genetic mutation in West Virginia’s hatchery.


West Virginia

In West Virginia, Palomino Trout have been introduced through various fish hatcheries and are now commonly found in the state. These trout have established self-sustaining populations throughout the region, providing a unique angling experience for locals and tourists alike.


Palomino Trout can also be found in Pennsylvania, where they are referred to as Golden Rainbow Trout. They have been stocked in several streams, lakes, and rivers across the state, making them an attractive catch for both experienced and novice anglers.


Although not as common in Virginia, some Palomino Trout populations do exist. These fish can be found in select water bodies within the state, and anglers who are fortunate enough to encounter them are typically thrilled with the experience.


In Maryland, Palomino Trout are not as widespread as in neighboring states. However, these fish have been stocked in specific locations, providing a unique opportunity for anglers in the area who are looking to target this elusive and memorable species.


The Palomino Trout has a strong historical connection to California, where they are known as “Lightning Trout.” This hybrid species is a cross between a Rainbow Trout and a California Golden Trout. While the largest concentration of Palomino Trout can be found in California, their introduction to other states has led to a broader distribution across North America.

North America

Palomino Trout have made their way into several regions across North America, including the Great Lakes region and the Pacific Northwest. Due to their hatchery origins, they can also be found in states such as New York, Oregon, and Alaska, although the larger adult Palomino Trout may not be as readily available in all locations.


Streams and Rivers

As for me, I’ve found that palomino trout have similar habitat preferences to other freshwater rainbow trout. They’re considered “fastwater” fish, which means they prefer living in swift areas of rivers, streams, and creeks. In these environments, they usually seek for clear, cold water with gravel or rock bottoms and a moderate amount of current.

Small Creeks

In smaller creeks, I’ve noticed palomino trout enjoy hiding under rocks and logs, looking for shelter and feeding opportunities. In most states, they are stocked at the beginning of spring when there’s plenty of water for them to thrive in. Despite their preference for fast-moving waters, they can occasionally be found in slow-moving rivers and lakes. It’s worth mentioning that due to their bright coloration, they are more likely to seek out heavily shaded areas for protection from predators.


As a first-person writer, I have to mention that Palomino Trout are primarily carnivorous and share a similar diet to conventional Rainbow Trout. Their diet mainly consists of:

  • Insects
  • Invertebrates like worms, crawfish, and mollusks
  • Fish eggs, such as salmon eggs
  • Smaller fish like minnows

In regular situations, Palomino Trout feed on insects, both aquatic and terrestrial. Some common insects in their diet include:

  • Mayfly nymphs
  • Caddisflies
  • Ants
  • Beetles

These insects constitute an essential part of their nutrition while also contributing to the ecosystem they inhabit. When it comes to invertebrates, worms and crawfish make up a significant portion of their diet, providing protein and other nutrients needed for growth.

In addition to insects and invertebrates, Palomino Trout are known to feed on fish eggs. Salmon eggs, in particular, serve as a rich source of nutrition. This behavior ensures that Palomino Trout consume diverse and nutrient-rich food sources to maintain good health and growth.

Lastly, Palomino Trout also prey on smaller fish such as minnows. This predatory behavior is more prevalent in larger, adult Palomino Trout, as they need more nutrients and energy than their younger counterparts.

In conclusion, the varied diet of Palomino Trout reflects their adaptable nature in terms of food sources. From insects and invertebrates to fish eggs and smaller fish, these trout consume a wide array of organisms to meet their nutritional needs.

Fishing Techniques

Fly Fishing

As a passionate angler, I’ve found that fly fishing is an effective method for catching Palomino Trout. Just like with other trout species, they tend to strike at various types of flies. Here’s a simple setup for fly fishing:

  1. Use a 6-foot-6-inch rod with heavy power for quick hook sets and reeling.
  2. Pair the rod with a reel that can handle 4lb test line (fluorocarbon).
  3. Use polarized fishing sunglasses to cut glare and improve visibility.
  4. Choose flies that imitate local insects, such as mayflies, caddisflies, and stoneflies.

Remember to continue to cast and try different flies to see what works best in that particular stream or river.


Another technique that works well for catching Palomino Trout is using spinner lures. These fish are known to feed voraciously on salmon eggs, and spinners are effective at mimicking this natural food source. Here’s how I would set up for spin fishing:

  1. Use a 6-foot-6-inch rod with heavy power to handle the quick, powerful strikes of Palomino Trout.
  2. Select a reel with a high gear ratio for fast retrieval of the lure.
  3. Choose spinners that have bright, attention-grabbing colors combined with natural elements, like feathers or fur.

When using spinners, cast upstream and allow the lure to drift downstream with the current. As the spinner moves, it will create vibrations that attract the attention of nearby trout.

By using these fly fishing and spinner techniques, it’s possible to have a successful and enjoyable experience targeting Palomino Trout. Remember to pay close attention to water conditions, trout behavior, and local regulations to ensure a safe and responsible fishing experience.

Bait and Lures

When it comes to fishing for palomino trout, using effective bait and lures can significantly increase your chances of success. In my experience, the best baits for palomino trout include:

  • Berkley PowerBait
  • Inflated earthworms
  • Maggots
  • Mealworms
  • Bloodworms
  • Hellgrammites
  • Minnows (live, dead, or chunked)
  • Corn
  • Cheese
  • Bio-plastics

It’s a good idea to bring more than one type of bait and try different ones if I’m not catching fish.

One particular bait that palomino trout seem to love is salmon eggs, arguably more than anything else they consume. When fishing in a moving stream, I find using salmon eggs and a simple slip float rig to be one of the most effective methods. Setting up the slip float rig involves:

  1. Sliding through a bobber stop and a bead.
  2. Adding the slip float.
  3. Attaching a split shot or a sliding egg weight and swivel about 2-3 feet from the hook.
  4. Using a size 8 single egg hook with a 4lb test line, preferably fluorocarbon.

Another effective lure for palomino trout is nymphs, which can be used in both lakes and streams. I recommend giving them a try when fishing in areas with an abundance of aquatic insects.

In summary, a combination of various baits and lures will increase my chances of successfully catching palomino trout, and it’s essential to remain adaptable to the conditions and the preferences of the fish. Good luck out there!

Hatcheries and Stocking

Hatchery Fish

I’ve learned that the palomino trout is a hybrid cross of a rainbow trout and a California golden trout. Hatcheries in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia breed these distinct fish and restock the surrounding waters with thousands of palomino trout each year (source: “Catch and Fillet”). By doing this, they aim to help the population establish itself and possibly evolve to improve the survival rate of wild palomino trout reaching adulthood.

Fish Hatchery

My research led me to discover that the Caledonia Hatchery located in New York State’s Livingston County is the oldest hatchery in the Western Hemisphere. Known for rearing brown trout and rainbow trout, it produces virtually all of the two-year-old brown trout used in the DEC’s stocking program for 13-15 inch trout (source: “DEC Fish Hatcheries – NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation”).

Another notable hatchery is Big Brown Fish Hatchery, Inc., which has been raising trout since 1971. They stock brook, brown, rainbow, and golden rainbow trout, as well as largemouth bass and bluegill. The hatchery delivers live fish for stocking across the northeast (source: “Fish for Stocking – Big Brown Fish Hatchery, Inc.”).


As a hybrid species, palomino trout benefit from heterosis, also known as hybrid vigor. This phenomenon occurs when a crossbreed offspring exhibits superior qualities compared to its parents due to the mixing of their genetic material. In the case of palomino trout, they maintain the rainbow stripe from the rainbow trout, but they do not have the dot pattern typically found on their parent species (source: “Outdoor Life”).



As a hybrid fish, the Palomino Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) exhibits a mix of characteristics from its parent species, the Rainbow Trout and the West Virginia Golden Trout. It’s known for its vibrant yellow color, which could also be described as a golden hue. This deep yellow coloring is a combination of the intense gold color from the West Virginia Golden Trout and the subtle streaks of the Rainbow Trout. The belly of the Palomino Trout can be a pink or orange color, which becomes more vibrant in spawning males.


The spotting pattern on a Palomino Trout is unique compared to its parent species. While it maintains the rainbow stripe commonly seen in Rainbow Trout, it’s void of the classic dot pattern. Instead, Palomino Trout are known to have red horizontal marks along their lateral line, similar to the purple or reddish lateral lines found in their Rainbow Trout relatives.

My personal experience with Palomino Trout tells me that their unique coloration and spotting patterns make them one of the most recognizable fish among anglers. Not only do they have a distinctive appearance, but they’re also said to be stronger than the typical Rainbow Trout. This makes Palomino Trout highly sought after as a trophy fish and an exciting challenge for anglers like me.

Unique Traits

Swimming Bananas

Often referred to as swimming bananas, Palomino Trout are a hybrid cross of rainbow trout and California golden trout. Their distinct bright yellow coloring catches the eye and has earned them this playful nickname. They maintain a rainbow stripe along their side, but unlike rainbow trout, they don’t have a dot pattern.

Trophy Fish

Though similar in size to rainbow trout, Palomino Trout can grow faster and larger. They typically measure 12-30 inches long and can weigh between 2 and 10 pounds. The fact that these fish can grow to impressive sizes and put up a good fight when caught makes them ideal trophy fish for anglers.

Lightning Trout

While some people believe that lightning trout and palomino trout are the same due to their shared bright yellow coloring, they are, in fact, different. Lightning trout are a separate genetic strain, also known for their striking appearance. That being said, both lightning and palomino trout share some similar characteristics, such as their aggression and preference for flies over lures.

In conclusion, Palomino Trout are unique fish with fascinating traits, making them a topic of interest for anglers and enthusiasts alike.

State Records

Pennsylvania State Record

In my experience with Palomino Trout, I came across the information about the world record holder for this unique species. This record belongs to a fish caught in Mahoning Creek, Pennsylvania, weighing an impressive 13 lbs, 8 ounces. Interestingly, Mahoning Creek is home to the highest concentration of Palomino Trout in the world.

As I continued my research on this fascinating fish species, I discovered that Palomino Trout can grow up to be the same size as standard Rainbow trout, potentially even larger. As a hybrid species, it seems their growth rate is faster than that of their parent species. Mature Palomino Trout usually reach lengths of between 12 and 30 inches, and can weigh anywhere from 2 to 10 pounds.

It’s worth mentioning that in West Virginia, the state stocked over 50,000 palominos in 2023 as part of their annual Gold Rush event. This event continues to draw thousands of anglers every spring, highlighting the popularity of Palomino Trout among the fishing community. However, no mention of specific state records for West Virginia was found in my search.

In summary, the Pennsylvania state record for Palomino Trout stands at 13 lbs, 8 ounces, caught in Mahoning Creek, which boasts the highest concentration of this species globally. As an angler, it’s essential to keep these records in mind when looking to take on the challenging and rewarding task of hunting for these beautiful golden fish.

Related Species

Tiger Trout

As I explore the world of trout species, one related species to the Palomino Trout that is worth mentioning is the Tiger Trout. This hybrid species is a result of a cross between a Brook Trout and a Brown Trout. These fish exhibit a unique pattern on their body, resembling the stripes of a tiger, hence the name “Tiger Trout.”

Tiger Trout are aggressive predators and tend to favor cooler water temperatures. They are commonly stocked in some lakes and streams to control other fish populations. Anglers often find Tiger Trout to be an exciting species to catch due to their beautiful markings and fighting spirit.

In the larger context of trout species, some of the most common species we can find include:

  • Rainbow Trout
  • Brown Trout
  • Brook Trout
  • Cutthroat Trout
  • California Golden Trout
  • Gila Trout
  • Apache Trout
  • Palomino Trout (a hybrid cross of a Rainbow Trout and a California Golden Trout)

Each of these trout species has its unique features, habitats, and behavioral patterns that set them apart from one another. As an angler or enthusiast, exploring and understanding these diverse trout species can lead to a more fulfilling fishing experience.

In conclusion, the world of trout species is vast and diverse, with the Palomino Trout and Tiger Trout being just two examples of intriguing and beautiful species that one can encounter.

Conservation and Threats

As a hybrid cross of rainbow trout and California golden trout, the Palomino trout faces a unique set of challenges in terms of conservation. Due to their rarity, they can be primarily found in select lakes, streams, and hatcheries in states like Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland. In this section, I will discuss the main threats to Palomino trout and key conservation efforts.

One of the primary threats faced by Palomino trout, like other species of freshwater fish, is habitat destruction. This can be attributed to a variety of factors, such as energy development, the introduction of non-native species, increasing water use and demand, and climate change. As a palomino trout enthusiast, I urge you to be aware of your local environment’s impact and play a part in mitigating negative consequences.

As a highly sought-after game fish, Palomino trout also face pressure from anglers. While fishing can provide a fun recreational activity, it’s important to observe local regulations regarding catch limits and practices.

Furthermore, the Palomino trout faces predators in their natural habitat, including osprey, bass, pike, otters, and blue heron. These predators can impact Palomino trout populations, though their impact may be less significant than human-related causes.

To help conserve and protect Palomino trout populations, consider the following actions:

  • Participate in local trout conservation organizations, such as Trout Unlimited, to help protect their habitats and promote sustainable fishing practices.
  • Educate yourself and others about the importance of maintaining healthy habitats and ecosystems for our freshwater fish.
  • Follow local rules and regulations for fishing, such as abiding by bycatch limits and required equipment.
  • Support efforts to restore and preserve lakes, rivers, and streams in your area, as healthy waterways are critical for the survival of all fish species, including the Palomino trout.
Captain Tyler Brady

Captain Tyler Brady

Hi, I'm Captain Tyler Brady, founder of A Fellow Fisherman. Thank you for reading this post and visiting my site. I strive to provide the best information when it comes to fishing, whether it is myself or A Fellow Fisherman that is part of my team. Now stop reading and GO fishing!

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