Rainbow trout are the species of choice for raising at the region’s fish hatcheries and stocking in Eastern Washington lakes.
They have the best combination of qualities, said Chris Donley, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife inland lakes manager.
“They’re easily caught – that’s that main thing,” he said, noting that when fish managers spend money to produce fish they want anglers to catch them.
“But before that, we know that they culture well in the hatcheries and have rapid growth rates. Rainbows are super efficient in converting feed to pounds.”
“Rainbows are more adaptable than other fish. A cutthroat needs colder, cleaner water and they grow slower.”
Given the same time and feed in the hatchery, a cutthroat might make 10 inches while a rainbow would grow to 12-13 inches, he said.
“Rainbows also are highly plastic in terms of the habitats they’ll use when released. Brown trout head to deeper water and are harder to catch.”
The rainbows released from hatcheries key on aquatic insects while fish such as brown trout and tiger trout feed on other fish. “We use that difference as a management tool,” Donley said.
“Rainbows are our workaday fish. They can withstand elevated water temperatures and impaired water quality better than other trout and they’ll make the best out of the variable forage available in a lake.
“They’re a good value for the dollar,” he said.