Palomino Trout – Trophy Fish or Just Another Rainbow?

Palomino Trout
Photo courtesy of @_out_fishing on Instagram

As an angler, the excitement that comes with catching the rare-looking Palomino trout is profound.

Whether you refer to it as a lightning trout, banana, or as an albino rainbow trout, the Palomino Trout surely has very unique coloring. The fact that they put up a good fight simply adds to the excitement of coming across such a magnificent fish.

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So what exactly is a Palomino Trout?

A Palomino Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), is a hybrid fish that results from a cross-breed between a rainbow trout and a West Virginia golden trout. Its deep yellow coloring is a combination of the intense gold color from the West Virginia golden trout and the subdued streaks of the rainbow trout.

And because of its eye-catching features, you’ll probably become mesmerized once you see it and will likely spend your entire day fishing for it!

So without further ado, let’s look at all the things about this unique and rare fish and how to catch them.

Palomino Trout vs. Golden Trout

There’s an ongoing debate on whether the Palomino Trout and the Golden Rainbow Trout are the same…

The Palomino Trout is artificially bred in various hatcheries in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia while the Golden Trout are generally found in specific high mountain lakes and streams in West Virginia.

But the Palomino Trout is from the same original egg-bearing golden trout used to stock lakes and rivers in the 1950s and 1960s.

Confused yet?

The Palomino Trout and the Golden Trout, are both a mutation of the same fish: Oncorhynchus mykiss, aka Rainbow Trout. However, some variations were lighter in color- more yellow, and thus have been specifically bred and marketed as a Palomino to differentiate from the popular Golden Trout.

But they are both, a variation of the ‘parent’ species, The common Rainbow Trout.

So that means that the most noticeable difference between the Palomino Trout and the Golden Trout is that the Palomino Trout is lighter in color than the Golden Rainbow Trout.

Palomino Trout
Photo courtesy of @spookintrout on Instagram

And depending on where you’re angling, you’ll come across people referring to the Palomino Trout as the “banana trout” or the “lightning trout”.

All in all, you can easily identify the Palomino Trout by their deep yellow-gold colored bodies. They’re marked with a faint lateral red stripe down the centerline of the fish. Their lower fins and cheeks are tinted pink/orange and they do not have dark spots on their fins or bodies like a normal rainbow trout.

About Palomino Trout

Long before the Palomino Trout caught much attention within the angling community, it was simply classified under the rainbow trout family. But after further research, it was discovered that it is one of the subspecies-mutations of the rainbow trout together with the Redband Trout and the Golden Trout.

This is now no longer the case after the Golden Trout was recognized as an independent species and not a subspecies of the Rainbow Trout species.

The Palomino Trout is a result of a purposeful cross-breeding of the traditional rainbow trout in Pennsylvania and the golden trout from the neighboring West Virginia waters.

While most artificial fish hybrids are known to be sterile, the Palomino Trout isn’t sterile and has significantly developed to breed, although sustaining populations are very limited in the wild.

Palomino Trout
Rainbow Trout Eggs

That being said, it’s still widely seen as an artificially bred hybrid of the rainbow trout hence their close association. And because it’s not a natural fish species, the Palomino Trout is bred in hatcheries and is generally used to attract anglers looking for that rare and striking catch.

The fact that the Palomino Trout is becoming more popular with anglers means that these fish are reproduced and farmed by hatcheries to meet the growing demand by anglers.

This growing popularity is not only based on their unique coloring but also on the fact that they’re a superb game fish that’s known to put up quite a fight when caught than other trout species.

Plus, imagine spotting a sleek, bright orange/yellow trout in a clear mountain stream…how cool is that!?

Although the Palomino Trout is easy to spot thanks to its unique yellow coloring, it’s very evasive in nature, which makes it much more difficult to catch.

As such, you’ll only increase your chances of catching a Palomino Trout if you know where to find them and more importantly, what baits or lures to use.

How Big Do They Get?

In terms of size, the Palomino Trout is of similar size to the normal Rainbow Trout but it’s not unusual for them to grow larger.

In fact, they tend to grow much faster and will end up larger than the Golden Trout. They commonly measure 12-30 inches long and can weigh between 2 and 10 pounds.

The average size Palomino Trout is between 15-19 inches and weighs between 2 and 4 pounds.

Catches over 10 pounds are rare, but they do happen!

Where to Find Palomino Trout

Given its close association to the conventional Rainbow Trout, Palomino Trout has similar habitat preferences to other freshwater Rainbow Trout.

Palomino Trout are “fast water” fish, they prefer living in swift areas of streams, rivers, and creeks. However, they have been successfully stocked in small lakes and ponds as well.

If your goal is to catch a Palomino Trout, head to Pennsylvania. Specifically, check out Lyman Run State Park, Hay Creek, and Mohining Creek.

But many anglers are not keen on giving up their Palomino honey holes…and who could blame them?

Fish hatcheries, especially in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia artificially breed and hybridize rainbow trout and regularly stock them in surrounding water bodies. These stocking schedules change each year, so it’s always best to consult with your local DNR office.

What Do Palomino Trout Eat?

As far as their diet is concerned, the Palomino Trout are mainly carnivores and have the same diet as any conventional Rainbow Trout.

Their diet consists mainly of insects and invertebrates such as crawfish, fish eggs, mollusks and worms. They can also feed on small crustaceans while larger adult Palomino Trout may also feed on smaller fish as well.

In terms of their predators, the Palomino Trout is a huge target for human anglers who pursue them mainly as trophies. They can also be targeted by osprey, bass, pike, otters, and blue heron.

How to Catch Palomino Trout

As mentioned earlier, spotting the Palomino Trout is easy if you look at the right places. However, they’re much more difficult to catch as they are elusive, fast, and love hiding in shady areas.

Look for deep pools, blowdowns, and eddies adjacent to large rocks or ledges. Like most trout, these fish prefer to hold near structure and ambush bait as it moves through the water column.

The popularity of Palomino Trout and Golen Trout has exploded in recent years which means pressure from anglers has too. These fish are weary!

Pressure from other anglers is often the most difficult factor to overcome when targeting Palomino Trout. Below are a few tips:

  • Get up early! Be the first angler on the water, well before the crowds and the sun gets overhead.
  • Keep a close eye on the stocking schedule of trout in your area. Plan your trip accordingly!
  • Focus on hard to access areas. Walk that extra mile, or put on the hip waders. Fish will be most pressured in easy to access areas off roads where parking is available.
  • Change out your baits. These fish are picky and if you dont get a bite in 2 or 3 drifts or casts its time to try something new.
  • Downsize your tackle. The smaller the better! When other anglers throw big streamers and globs of eggs, try something a like a single bead or 1/32 oz tipped jighead.
  • Avoid shadow casting. Ask yourself, “where is the sun, and will the fish see my shadow?” plan you approach carefully, you may only get one cast before he spooks.

Palomino Trout Tackle

My Bait & Lure Recommendations:

Blue Fox (or similar inline spinner)

Pautzke Fishing Bait Scented Artificial Salmon Eggs Fish

Trout Magnet Neon Kit

My Rod and Reel Recommendations:

Redington Fly Fishing Combo

Cadence CC4 Spinning Combo

Here’s a great place to learn more about different types of fishing reels that can help you catch the Palomino Trout, or any type of fish.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are Palomino Trout Good to Eat?

Yes, Palomino Trout are good to eat if you like the taste and texture of Rainbow Trout. Their meat is a tad more orange/pink than a normal rainbow trout but the flavor is the same.

Are Palomino Trout rare?

Because Palomino Trout are primarily stocked by fish hatcheries, and seldom found in the wild many anglers do consider them rare. They are found in select locations around the United States and prized by fly fishermen and conventional anglers.

Are Palomino Trout sterile?

No, Palomino Trout are not sterile but natural reproduction in the wild is limited to a few watersheds in the Northeastern United States.

Are Palomino Trout Fun to Catch?

Palomino Trout are a lot of fun. First you have to spot the fish, and when they bite they are known for good strong runs and even jumps. Plus, they make an amazing photo!

Are Palomino Trout Available Throughout the United States?

The Palomino Trout are not available throughout the United States. This is because they’re artificially bred and stocked in the wild. The most popular states to find them are Pennsylvania, West Virginia and, Maryland.

Final Thoughts

In addition to being a rare fish, the Palomino Trout is elusive and will always put up quite a fight. This not only makes it a popular trophy fish among anglers but is also a good fish species to test your angling abilities and experience.

Plus, talk about a cool photo opportunity!

Palomino Trout
Photo courtesy of @spookintrout on Instagram

All you need is patience, information, determination, and the right tools and you might be able to check the elusive Palomino Trout off your list.

Good luck and thanks for reading!

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