16 Types of Trout Species

Types of trout species

For avid trout anglers, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of the catch, especially when chasing after various trout species. Each trout presents its unique challenge, specific allure, and distinct beauty.

But beyond the fishing lines and bait, how much do you really know about these magnificent fish you so eagerly pursue?

In this article, we’ll delve deeper into the captivating world of trout species, highlighting their distinctive features and role in the vibrant aquatic ecosystem. Join us on this journey through the world of trout species! 

How Many Species of Trout Are There in the World?

Two trouts side by side

When it comes to identifying trout, it can get complicated. That’s because the term “trout” doesn’t strictly adhere to scientific classification.

Instead, it’s more of a colloquial term, often used to describe salmon-shaped fish, particularly those that swim in freshwater environments.

Many species that are casually referred to as trout belong to several scientific genera, including Oncorhynchus, Salmo, and Salvelinus, all under the Salmonid family.

There are hundreds of species under the Salmonid family. However, only a few of them are colloquially known as trouts.

Here are the 16 species under the genera Oncorhynchus, Salmo, and Salvelinus, including hybrids, that are commonly referred to as trout:

  1. Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)
  2. Brown trout (Salmo trutta)
  3. Cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii)
  4. Golden trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss aguabonita)
  5. Apache trout (Oncorhynchus apache)
  6. Gila trout (Oncorhynchus gilae)
  7. Marble trout (Salmo marmoratus)
  8. Mexican golden trout (Oncorhynchus chrysogaster)
  9. Brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis)
  10. Lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush)
  11. Dolly Varden trout (Salvelinus malma)
  12. Bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus)
  13. Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus)
  14. Tiger trout (a hybrid between brook trout and brown trout)
  15. Splake trout (a hybrid between brook trout and lake trout)
  16. Cutbow trout (a hybrid between rainbow trout and cutthroat trout)

Although these fish species come from different genera, they share similarities in terms of appearance, habitat, and behavior. Hence, they are commonly classified under the umbrella term “trout.”

16 Different Types of Trout Species

1. Rainbow Trout

Rainbow trout up close
Scientific Name:Oncorhynchus mykiss
Distribution:Native to North America; Introduced worldwide
Habitat:Cold freshwater streams and rivers; lakes
Adult Size:Up to 45 inches (114 cm)
WeightUp to 50 pounds (23 cm)
Lifespan:Up to 11 years

The rainbow trout is known for its vibrant pink stripe and distinctive black spots on the body and tail. This species is one of the most famous species for trout fishing.

They are native to the Pacific coast of North America and were introduced to areas like the Great Lakes and Southern Canada.

This trout species includes various subspecies, such as the sea-traveling steelhead trout, redband trout, and golden rainbow trout.

These trout primarily inhabit freshwater environments, using aquatic vegetation and other structures for protection.

Steelhead trout are a unique subspecies of rainbow trout, spending significant time in estuaries or oceans before returning to freshwater to spawn.

Anglers appreciate rainbow trouts for their feisty nature and delicious taste, making them a popular choice for recreational fishing. To increase your chances of catching one, read our guide on the best baits for this species.

This trout species shares the waters with cutthroat and bull trout as they are also key members of North America’s diverse trout population.

2. Brown Trout

Brown trout in murky water
Scientific Name:Salmo trutta
Distribution:Europe, Western Asia; Introduced worldwide
Habitat:Cold freshwater streams, rivers, and lakes
Adult Size:14–30 inches (35–76 cm)
Weight5–30 pounds (2–14 kg)
Lifespan:Up to 20 years

The brown trout, scientifically known as Salmo trutta, has an elongated body in a brown or golden hue, dotted with numerous black, brown, and red spots and a small, pointed head.

They can grow notably large, with wild brown trout reaching up to 30 pounds and up to 30 inches.

This trout species prefers cold, well-oxygenated waters, optimally between 54 °F and 65 °F, and predominantly lives in freshwater environments such as rivers, streams, and lakes.

They are native to regions like Iceland, Ireland, Great Britain, North Africa, and Eurasia but have been introduced widely worldwide.

They exhibit versatile adaptability, with some populations spending most of their time in the ocean and returning to freshwater to breed. These anadromous brown trout are also called sea trout.

In North America, their adaptability and the ongoing stocking have established them as a popular fish for sport fishing, especially in upland streams and areas.

3. Cutthroat Trout

Cutthroat trout held by hand
Scientific Name:Oncorhynchus clarkii
Distribution:Western North America
Habitat:Cold freshwater streams, rivers, and lakes
Adult Size:6–24 inches (15–61 cm)
Weight2–6 pounds (1–3 kg)
Lifespan:Up to 12 years

The cutthroat trout is a notable trout species, distinct from its rainbow trout and brown trout relatives. Its name is derived from the red slashes found just beneath its gills.

Their body color ranges from gray to green, fading to a silvery shade on the belly. These trout are spotted, especially towards the tails.

Cutthroat trout thrive in the cold freshwater habitats of western North America. They’re native from the Pacific Coast to the Rocky Mountains and can also be found as far north as Alaska.

Remarkably, there are up to 14 different types of trout within the cutthroat category, each adapting to specific rivers or drainages. This diversity makes them a unique species in North America.

While these trout generally measure between 6 and 24 inches and weigh 2 to 6 pounds, some historical records mention much larger sizes. Freshwater cutthroats are smaller than their anadromous counterparts.

Pro Tip: To differentiate cutthroat trout from their rainbow and cutbow relatives, look for the red or pink linear markings along their lateral lines. Also, watch out for teeth at the base of their tongue, known as basibranchial teeth.

4. Golden Trout

Golden trout
Scientific Name:Oncorhynchus mykiss aguabonita
Distribution:California, USA
Habitat:High alpine streams and lakes
Adult Size:6–12 inches (15–30 cm)
WeightUp to 11 pounds (5 kg)
Lifespan:Up to 9 years

The next trout species we have on the list is the golden trout, which originally hails from Northern California. They’re known for their striking appearance: an olive-green back complemented by golden sides.

What sets them apart from other trout species are the red bands running horizontally along their lateral lines and about ten dark, oval parr marks. These usually fade when the trout reaches three years but can sometimes stay until adulthood.

Their fins, decorated with white leading edges, are dotted with dark spots like the upper body.

Golden trout populates roughly 20 high-altitude lakes in the western and south-central regions of the state.

Growing up to more than 12 inches in ideal environments, these trout feed on aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates. They adapt well to transparent, chilly lakes at lower heights.

Golden trout mostly chooses clean gravel outlets, though inlets and lake shoals aren’t uncommon during spawning in spring.

5. Apache Trout

Apache trout
Image credit: azwildtrout / Instagram
Scientific Name:Oncorhynchus apache
Distribution:Arizona, USA
Habitat:Cold freshwater streams
Adult Size:6–24 inches (15–61 cm)
Weight0.4–6 pounds (0.2–2.7 kg)
Lifespan:Up to 9 years

The Apache trout is a unique fish species native to Arizona’s cold freshwater streams, primarily in the White Mountains.

You can easily identify them through the distinctive appearance that sets them apart from other trout species in North America. They have a golden yellow to yellow-olive hue, accented with tints of purple and pink.

Some hatchery-raised Apache trout also have two unique black spots near their pupils, often likened to a mask. Their fins have creamy or yellowish tips.

The Apache trout’s notably larger dorsal fin and the cutthroat mark, a yellow slash beneath the jaw, add to their distinctiveness.

They flourished across vast regions but experienced a decline by the 1940s due to overfishing and habitat degradation. Nonnative species introduction, including trout and salmon, further threatened their existence.

Today, these trout can be found in various locations across Arizona, such as the Apache-Sitgreaves, Coronado, and Kaibab National Forests.

6. Gila Trout

Gila trout
Image credit: americantroutman / Instagram
Scientific Name:Oncorhynchus gilae
Distribution:New Mexico and Arizona
Habitat:Cold freshwater streams
Adult Size:Up to 12 inches (30 cm)
WeightUp to 4 pounds (2 kg)
Lifespan:Up to 6 years

Living within the headwaters of the Gila River drainage in New Mexico and Arizona, the Gila trout is known for its captivating bronze to olive-brown back. These transition to a golden yellow on their sides.

Among the different trout found in the region, these Pacific trout stand out with their reddish or pink band along their lateral line.

During one of my pier fishing adventures, I thought I was ale to catch an Apache trout, since its stout body was dotted with small spots primarily above the lateral line. It also boasted white-tipped dorsal, pelvic, and anal fins.

However, as I observed these features closely, I also noticed its distinct copper-colored gill plates which made me realize that I was looking at a Gila trout, instead. These features distinguish them from other trout species in North America.

7. Marble Trout

Marble trout
Scientific Name:Salmo marmoratus
Distribution:Adriatic basin in Europe
Habitat:Cold freshwater rivers
Adult Size:12–27 inches (30–70 cm)
Weight:Up to 55 pounds (23 kg)
Lifespan:Up to 10 years

The marble trout boasts a unique marbled pattern. These trout are native to the Adriatic basin in Europe and can be found in rivers like the Soča in Slovenia and the Adige in Italy.

Each river system presents its variation of the marble trout, sometimes displaying red dots or splotches.

As marble trout grow, their dietary habits evolve. Initially feeding on nymphs, they later turn carnivorous, seeking other species of fish to satisfy their energy needs. You can learn more about what trout eat in this article!

The marble trout is believed to have a shared evolutionary lineage with the brown trout. Nonetheless, it’s worthy to mention that marble trout and brown trout are distinct species.

These cold freshwater fish can grow impressively, averaging about 12 to 27 inches and weighing up to 55 pounds, with a lifespan extending to 10 years.

8. Mexican Golden Trout

Mexican Golden Trout
Image credit: amberjackoutfitters / Instagram
Scientific Name:Oncorhynchus chrysogaster
Distribution:Sierra Madre Occidental, Mexico
Habitat:Cold freshwater streams
Adult Size:6–12 inches (15–30 cm)
Weight:Up to 11 pounds (5 kg)
Lifespan:Up to 6 years

Mexican golden trout, similar in some ways to rainbow trout, have vivid golden-yellow bellies and blue parr marks. Males are easily distinguishable with their extended jaws, known as “kypes.”

These trout, which has orange-tinted fins with white edges, doesn’t grow as large as some other trout species in North America, averaging about 6 to 12 inches.

Primarily found in the Sierra Madre Occidental, these trout’s range is limited. They inhabit the crystal-clear headwaters of rivers like the Fuerte, Sinaloa, and Culiacán.

You can only find these trout in 15 specific locations. They live in streams birthed from ciénegas, located above 5,000 feet, surrounded by canyons and a mix of scrub forests and evergreens.

Despite their beauty, Mexican golden trout face challenges due to their limited habitat.

9. Brook Trout

Brook trout
Scientific Name:Salvelinus fontinalis
Distribution:Eastern North America
Habitat:Cold freshwater streams and lakes
Adult Size:5–10 in; max of 34 inches (13–25 cm; max of 86 cm)
Weight0.3–1 pound; max of 15 pounds (0.1–0.45 kg; max of 6.6 kg)
Lifespan:2-3 years

Brook trout, fondly called the “speckled trout,” are also one of the most popular and common game fish. Despite their name, these fish are not trout. They’re part of the char species, like the bull and lake trout.

Brook trout have orange belles and olive-green backs adorned with worm-like patterns and light spots on a dark canvas.

This appearance is opposite to other trout in North America, such as the rainbow trout, which usually exhibit dark spots on lighter backgrounds.

The preferred environments of brook trout are cool, spring-fed streams and lakes. As they grow, these trout transition from a diet of plankton to munching on insects.

This trout species grows to about 5 to 10 inches and weigh about 0.3 to 1 pound in ideal conditions. In the wild, they usually live three years on average.

10. Lake Trout

Lake trout in deep waters
Scientific Name:Salvelinus namaycush
Distribution:Northern North America, Northern Europe, and Asia
Habitat:Deep, cold lakes
Adult Size:24–36 in; max of 50 in (61–91 cm; ma of 130 cm)
Weight15–40 pounds; max of 102 pounds (6.8–18.1 kg; max of 46 kg)
Lifespan:Up to 25 years

Similar to brook trout, lake trout are unlike other “trout species” since they are technically char.

Sometimes referred to as Mackinaw trout, it is the biggest member of the char family that is commonly referred to as trout.

Lake trout have white spots on their dark gray bodies, deeply forked tails, and white-edged fins. Their habitat stretches from the chilly depths of Alaska and Canada to the iconic Great Lakes.

These trout prefer cold, deep lakes. They often inhabit depths of 60 feet or more during summer to stay in cooler waters.

Their primary diet consists of smaller fish. In certain lakes with scarce smaller prey, they may also feed on insects, crustaceans, and plankton.

Lake trout can grow to impressive sizes, typically growing to about 24 to 36 inches, but with some weighing up to 40 pounds. The record lake trout registered a staggering 102 pounds.

Watch this fishing video if you are curious about what freshly caught lake trout look like:

Sharp Shooting BIG Lake Trout! | Open Water Fishing

11. Dolly Varden Trout

Dolly Varden trout
Scientific Name:Salvelinus malma
Distribution:Northern North America and Asia
Habitat:Cold freshwater streams, rivers, and coastal waters
Adult Size:3–22 in (8–56 cm)
Weight3.5–12 pounds (1.5–12 kg)
Lifespan:Up to 8 years

Another fish commonly called trout, despite being a char species, is the Dolly Varden. They are native to Alaska, but their habitat range extends to the various coastal regions in North America.

This species of char has light spots on a dark body color, unlike most trout that sport dark markings on a lighter hue.

They come in two varieties and can be found anywhere from freshwater lakes to saltwater regions in Alaska. Interestingly, certain populations only witness females migrating to the sea and returning later for spawning.

Dolly Varden trout exhibit a unique transformation. Sea-run Dolly Varden trout have a silvery shimmer with soft orange spots.

This appearance changes once they enter freshwater, turning into a rich greenish-brown with orange to red spots. During spawning, males exhibit vivid colors with a pronounced hooked jaw.

These fish have a unique namesake story linked to Dickens’s Barnaby Rudge. They are named after the vibrant character Dolly Varden, mirroring its vibrant appearance and fashion.

12. Bull Trout

Bull trout
Scientific Name:Salvelinus confluentus
Distribution:Northwestern North America
Habitat:Cold freshwater streams, rivers, and lakes
Adult Size:Up to 40 in (103 cm)
WeightUp to 32 pounds (14.5 kg)
Lifespan:Up to 12 years

A bull trout showcases an olive or dull, light brown color adorned with pale orange spots. They are another fish called trout but a part of the Char family.

This species is native to northwestern North America, ranging from Alaska to California.

Bull trout prefers cold, clean, and stable environments. They thrive in mountain or coastal streams, exhibiting two types: resident and migratory.

Reaching up to 40 inches and weighing up to 31 pounds, These trout feed on invertebrates and smaller fish.

Their migratory journey is fascinating, some traveling over 100 miles to spawn in tributaries, while others lead a resident life in the same stream.

Unfortunately, they are listed as threatened due to habitat alterations and competitive interactions with introduced brook trout, resulting in sterile hybrids.

Flathead Lake stands out in bull trout’s habitat, where studies reveal adults ascending rivers for spawning and returning, while young may stay in tributaries for years.

13. Arctic Char

Arctic Char
Scientific Name:Salvelinus alpinus
Distribution:Arctic, sub-Arctic, and alpine regions in the Northern Hemisphere
Habitat:Cold lakes and rivers; coastal waters
Adult Size:3–16 in (8–40 cm)
Weight0.44–10 pounds (0.2–4.5 kg)
Lifespan:Up to 20 years

Due to their resemblance and close genetic relation to trout species, arctic char is often confused with trout but are char, like the brook, bull, and lake trout.

Their appearance varies with their habitat and time of year. Typically, they boast greenish-brown upper bodies with a lighter shade below.

They stand out with their pink to red spots found below their lateral line. The white leading edge on their lower fins is another signature feature. When they spawn, especially males, they exhibit vibrant hues, varying from gold to rose.

It’s easy to mistake them for Dolly Varden, a close relative found in similar locations.

Nonetheless, I can share with you a few tricks I do to distinguish them whenever I go fishing.

I pay close attention to the small physical differences between the two. Although many trout species seem similar in appearance, they actually differ in terms of coloration, dotting, and tail shape.

For instance, the arctic char has larger, sparser spots and a deeper-forked tail than Dolly Varden. Their caudal peduncle, the part just before the tail fin, is narrower, too.

Knowing these differences is crucial if you want to know what kind of trout species you’ve caught.

14. Tiger Trout

Tiger trout
Scientific Name:Salmo trutta / Salvelinus fontinalis
Distribution:Hybrid species; stocked in various locations
Habitat:Cold freshwater streams and lakes
Adult Size:12–20 in; max of 30 in (30–51 in; max of 76 cm)
Weight1–7 pounds (0.5–3.5 kg)
Lifespan:Up to 10 years

The tiger trout is a unique among North American trout species. They are a hybrid resulting from the union of female brown trout and male brook trout.

These fish are characterized by their unique maze-like pattern on a brownish-gray background, complemented by an orange-yellow color.

Their signature dark vermiculations, resembling tiger stripes, stretch across their body, making them easily distinguishable.

While hybrids like the cutbow trout naturally occur, tiger trout primarily arises from deliberate human intervention. This is due to genetic complexities, as brook and brown trout rarely crossbreed in the wild.

Nonetheless, in specific habitats where both species coexist, nature occasionally produces a naturally bred tiger trout.

15. Splake Trout

Splake trout caught in a lake
Scientific Name:Salvelinus namaycush / Salvelinus fontinalis
Distribution:Hybrid species; stocked in various locations
Habitat:Cold freshwater lakes and reservoirs
Adult Size:12–18 inches (30–46 cm)
Weight1–2 pounds; max of 20 pounds (0.5–1 kg; max of 9 kg)
Lifespan:Up to 10 years

Another hybrid trout species, the splake trout originates from the fusion of male brook trout and female lake trout.

The name “splake” cleverly combines “speckled” from the brook trout and the word “lake” from lake trout.

The splake borrows attributes from its parent species, making it intriguing yet slightly tricky to identify.

Their size falls between the ranges of the giant lake trout and the smaller brook trout. The dotted patterns of this hybrid resemble the brook trout’s appearance.

Their tails also offer a distinctive identifying feature. Unlike the pronounced forked tail of lake trout or the square finish of brook trout tail, the splake’s tail sits comfortably in between.

While they’re a hybrid trout and have been around since the 1870s, don’t expect them to find many of them in the wild. They mostly come from special fish farms, making them a unique find in fishing.

16. Cutbow Trout

Cutbow trout caught in a river
Scientific Name:Oncorhynchus mykiss / Oncorhynchus clarkii
Distribution:Primarily bred in hatcheries but can occur in places where parent breeds coexist
Adult Size:12–16 in (30–41 cm)
Weight1–2 pounds (0.4–1 kg)
Lifespan:Up to 7 years

Another hybrid trout to add to the list is the cutbow trout. Cutbow trout, also known as the bowcutt, are fascinating hybrid species that carry the best features of their parent trout: the rainbow and the cutthroat trout.

At first glance, their appearance seems identical to rainbow trout, yet with considerably larger spots, primarily towards the tail. 

They also have distinctive red slashes beneath their jaws, characteristic of cutthroat trout.

These trout aren’t native species but are products of genetic crossbreeding, predominantly carried by hatcheries.

Nonetheless, in regions where rainbow and cutthroat trout share waters, the occasional natural cutbow emerges, especially in streams. This natural blending is known as introgression.

Frequently Asked Questions

Trout under the sun ray

What Is the Most Common Species of Trout?

The rainbow trout is often considered the most common and widespread among the many different types of trout.

Originating from the west coast of North America, these species have made their way across the continent, extending from north to the Arctic Sea and as far south as Mexico.

Rainbow trout are easily recognizable. They have a silver hue and a signature pinkish-red stripe running down their sides.

Nevertheless, brown and brook trout are also considered popular and common trout species, especially in fishing. 

What Is the Rarest Species of Trout?

While many different types of trout are out there, some are more elusive and scarcer than others.

First on the list of rare trout species is the Paiute Cutthroat trout, a variant of the cutthroat trout. Recent changes in their habitat have led to a drop in their numbers, making them scarce.

The California Golden trout is also considered rare. You can find this trout mainly in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Only about 400 to 2,000 California Golden trout remain in their natural habitat presently.

Other notable mentions include the elusive Palomino trout and the McCloud River Redband.

Sadly, the rarity of these trout species is mainly due to their decreasing population caused by various environmental concerns.

What Is the Most Aggressive Trout Species?

Brown trout are thought to be the most aggressive when discussing the aggression among different trout species. They are recognized for their heightened wariness, often presenting challenges for anglers.

However, this wariness transforms into pronounced territorial behavior during their spawning period, resulting in aggressive responses to perceived intrusions, such as lures or flies.

Tiger and splake trout, hybrid trout species, are also known for their aggressive behaviors.

What Is the Biggest Trout in the World?

By far, the title of the biggest trout in the world goes to the lake trout. The heaviest lake trout ever documented weighed a staggering 72 pounds. That’s akin to reeling in an average five-year-old child.

This record-breaking catch was made by Lloyd Bull in 1995 at Great Bear Lake in Canada’s Northwest Territories. Recognized by the International Game Fish Association (IGFA), this catch remains to be the record-holder.

What Is the Prettiest Trout in the World?

Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. But when it comes to trout, one species often stands out in the crowd — the California Golden trout.

These trout exhibit a vibrant display of radiant orange and bold lateral stripes. Their belly glows with a golden hue, complemented by specks of black scattered across their sides. 

Nevertheless, beauty is subjective. Although most argue that the California Golden trout is the most beautiful, we can’t deny that many other trout species also deserve the title.

From the cold waters of the Arctic Sea to the streams of North America, there are more species and subspecies of trout waiting to be discovered by you. Which trout species fascinates you the most? Share your thoughts with us!

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