17 Different Types of Trout Species You’ll Encounter

How many types of trout do you know? And from these species, how many can you correctly identify? The USA is home to over ten trout species. Does that surprise you? If yes, this article will walk you through the 14 different types of trout species.

We have categorized these species into native, invasive, and hybrid. And, as a bonus, we take a closer look if char is a trout or a salmon.

Let’s dive in.

Native Types of Trout Species

These trout species are from the United States, and their existence has dramatically contributed to a natural and healthy ecosystem over the years. The native trout species include Gila trout, Apache trout, Rainbow trout, Cutthroat trout, and Golden trout.

Gila Trout

Picture showing the distinct face of the Gila trout
Scientific nameOncorhynchus gilae
Other namesNone
AppearanceIridescent gold color
Average weight and length1 to 6 oz., 5 to 9 inches
HabitatCreeks, perennial montane streams
RangeNew Mexico, Arizona, San Francisco
Conservation statusThreatened species

You can identify a Gila trout from its yellowish or golden-colored sides with small, black spots. Their gill plates have dark-copper color, while the fins have a white or yellowish tip.  

These fish thrive in cold waters found at high elevations. You can find them in perennial streams over 5,400 feet with temperatures under 77 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Gila trout are a rare trout species native to the Gila River drainage. Unfortunately, the species almost went extinct due to human development, overharvesting, wildfires, and water diversion. By 1967, it was listed as an endangered species.

Fortunately, conservation efforts have helped restore the populations over the years. The fish is currently listed as a threatened species.

Apache Trout

Scientific nameOncorhynchus apache
Other namesBehnke, Yellow belly, Arizona trout
AppearanceGolden yellow, olive-yellow, and olive-brown colors with dark uniform spots.
Average weight and length3 to 6 pounds, 12 to 23 inches
HabitatCold, aerated water
Conservation statusThreatened species

The Apache trout is commonly referred to as Arizona trout because it is native to the state. The fish live in cold forest streams and mountain lakes with high oxygen levels.

The trout has an olive-yellow body with uniform dark spots. Their average length is 12 inches but can get to 20 inches.

To catch apache trout, use dry flies, salmon eggs, nymphs, and worms as bait. Additionally, use spinners and spoons to improve your fishing success. 

Apache trout almost went extinct from wildfires, overfishing, and invasion of non-native trout. However, efforts to restore the population have proved successful; they are now classified as threatened.

Rainbow Trout

A person showing the unique scale pattern of a Rainbow trout
Scientific nameOncorhynchus mykiss
Other namesRedband trout, steelheads, steelhead trout
AppearanceBlue-green, yellow-green body, white belly, pink sides, black spots on the back
Average weight and length2 to 16 pounds, 20 to 30 inches
HabitatCold, clear water
RangeEast of Russia, Western North America, Northern Pacific Ocean
Conservation statusThreatened species

These trout do not resemble the rainbow, but they have beautiful colors. They are yellow-green or blue-green with a white underbelly, pink stripes on the side, and black spots on their fins and black.

The juveniles live in cool, clear waters feeding mainly on surface insects, invertebrates, and small fish. They then migrate to sea or ocean waters and only return to freshwater during the spawning season.

Steelheads grow to weigh up to 16 pounds, which is an excellent catch for any angler. The best time to catch rainbow trout is late spring. Carry an ultra-light rod and reel as these fish always put up a fight.

Cutthroat Trout

A person holding a freshly caught Cutthroat troat
Scientific nameOncorhynchus clarkia
Other namesSalmo clarki
AppearanceBrassy color with spots, forked tails
Average weight and length2 to 17 pounds, 6 to 40 inches
HabitatColdwater tributaries
RangeHudson Bay, Rocky Mountains, Mississippi, Pacific Coast
Conservation statusThreatened species

These trout have a distinctive red streak on their lower jaw hence the name. This fish can have a green, gray, or golden body with orange, pink, or red marks depending on the species. 

They live in cold, freshwater, or seawater. The best fishing time for sea-run cutthroat is during spring or fall. But regardless of the species’ habitat, these fish are visual hunters and aggressive bottom feeders who will try any lure. 

These fish are sensitive to water quality and almost went extinct. Some species like the Greenback cutthroat trout are still a threatened species.

Golden Trout

A person showing the gold color of the Golden trout
Scientific nameOncorhynchus aguabonita
Other namesCalifornia golden trout
AppearanceYellow-gold flanks, red band on lateral line, copper backs, parr marks, oval marks, deep-red bellies
Average weight and length0.5 to 1.25 pounds, 6 to 12 inches
HabitatCold, clear, high-altitude streams
RangeNevada mountains, California
Conservation statusThreatened species

California is home to the golden trout. It has a close relationship to Kern river rainbow trout and little kern golden trout. Together, this trio is called the “golden trout complex.”

Did you know Golden trout have a lifespan of 7-9 years? These fish live in high-altitude rivers and streams at 7000 to 12000 feet. They enjoy that the clear, cold waters here have less vegetation since their diet consists of larvae, small insects, and crustaceans.

Invasive Types of Trout

Although imported trout species initially contributed to a healthier aquatic environment, some, later on, became invasive. They disrupt the balance up to the point that they are over competing with native types of trouts.

Brown Trout

A person holding a live Brown trout
Scientific nameSalmo trutta
Other namesGerman brown, sea trout
AppearanceGolden, yellow-brown body, red and black spots
Average weight and length2.5 to 10 pounds, 14 to 24 inches
RangeIceland, almost all US states
Conservation statusLeast concern

The brown trout is native to North Africa, Western Asia, and Europe. The breed was introduced to the US from Germany and the UK in the mid-1860s

Brown trout can weigh up to 10 pounds. If you want to catch some of these opportunistic feeders, prepare your fishing gear during spring or fall. This is the best time for show casting with spinners, spoons, worms, dry flies, and minnows. Alternatively, try still fishing, trolling, and casting in the summer. 

Hybrid Trout Species

Hybrid trout species result from crossbreeding two or more different types of trout. Unfortunately, finding this type of trout in the wild is rare since they are produced in hatcheries. Cuttbow, however, is an exception.

Palomino Trout

A person holding a Palomino trout
Scientific nameOncorhynchus mykiss
Other namesBanana trout, lightning trout, albino rainbow trout
AppearanceYellow body, red stripe on the centerline, no dark spots
Average weight and length2 to 10 pounds, 12 to 30 inches
HabitatFast-moving streams, mountainous regions
RangeWater bodies around fish hatcheries
Conservation statusLeast concern

The Palomino trout is the result of breeding Rainbow trout with the West Virginia golden trout. The hybrid is bred in hatcheries and then released into the ponds and lakes to entice anglers to make a rare, prized catch.

The largest concentration of Palomino trout is in California. However, spotting the fish in the wild is much easier than catching one. The breed is picky and rarely tries to eat the bait off the fishing line. Moreover, they never go down without a fight.

Patience is essential when fishing these rare fish. Other helpful tips include fishing early, downsizing your bait, and if you are unsuccessful come midday, avoid shadow casting.


Scientific nameSalvelinus fontinalis X Salvelinus namaycush
Other namesSpeckled trout
AppearanceA mix of lake trout and brook trout
Average weight and length2 to 7 pounds, 8 to 18 inches
RangeGreat lakes
Conservation statusLeast concern

Splake is the offspring of the Lake trout and Brook trout. You may have difficulty identifying this species since it takes after its parents. The sure way to ascertain a fish is a splake is by counting the pyloric ceca. Splake has 65 to 85, which is less than Lake trout and more than Brook trout.

This hybrid species can reproduce and has been crossbred in hatcheries with its parent species. However, there is no proof of the splake reproducing in the wild. Despite this, the species has a spawning run during fall.

Tiger Trout

A photo of a Tiger trout, one of the well-known types of trout species that is a hybrid
Scientific nameSalmo trutta X Salvelinas fontinalis
Other namesNone
AppearanceMaze patterns, brownish-gray body
Average weight and length2 to 5 pounds, 10 to 20 inches
HabitatCold, well-oxygenated water
RangeWest of United States
Conservation statusLeast concern

The tiger trout bears tiger-like markings that resemble maze patterns. The breed is a crossbreed between a male brook with a female brown trout. Most tiger trout populations are produced in hatcheries and then stocked in the wild.

The species is sterile because it is developed from a triploid egg. This means the fish has three pairs of chromosomes instead of two. The extra pair makes it impossible to reproduce.

You can catch tiger trout with artificial flies, bait, spoons, and small spinners. Georgia, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Idaho, and Washington are some states that stock this fish.

Cut-Bow Trout

A photo of Cuttbow trout underwater
Scientific nameOncorhynchus clarkia X Oncorhynchus mykiss
Other namesNone
AppearanceCharacteristics of both parents, red/orange markings on the jaw, slash under the gills
Average weight and length1 to 8 pounds, 12 to 24 inches
HabitatCold, freshwater environment
RangeWestern states of the USA
Conservation statusLeast concern

Cutthroat and rainbow trout have similar spawning seasons and require identical water conditions. This usually leads to the species overlapping with a male rainbow trout fertilizing the eggs of a cutthroat. 

The unique fertilization produces a natural hybrid and fertile cut bow trout. These fish resemble each of their parents, but you can tell them apart from the red/orange slash marks under their gills. 

Cuttbow spawn in natural habitats or hatcheries during spring.


Unknown to many, char and trout belong to the same family – Salmonidae. But, char has a unique genus (Salvelinus) that makes them a circumpolar species. These fish are adapted to living in extremely high altitudes and are native to the Arctic. They feature light spots on their dark bodies.

Dolly Varden Trout

An angler holding a Dolly Varden trout
Scientific nameSalvelinus malma
Other namesMalma
AppearanceBluish, silvery, olive-green silver-gray
Average weight and lengthUp to 27 pounds, 16 to 22 inches
HabitatColdwater tributaries, freshwater, saltwater
RangeNorth America, Alaska
Conservation statusLeast concern

Many anglers confuse Dolly Varden with the bull trout. Although they resemble one another, Dolly Varden is much smaller and lives close to the coast, while bull trout are larger and live inland.

This species can live in freshwater, brackish water, and oceans. A while back, dolly Varden was considered a nuisance since they preyed on other species’ eggs. Today, they are beauty and prize among fly fishers.

The best fishing time for dolly Varden is during spring and early summer.

Bull Trout

A person holding a live Bull trout
Scientific nameSalvelinus confluentus
Other namesInland Dolly Varden
AppearanceOrange, yellow, red, or pink spots, olive or blue-gray body
Average weight and length30 pounds, 37 inches
HabitatClean, cold water
RangeWestern Canada, Northwest USA
Conservation statusVulnerable

Bull trout have bigger heads than their body, and they are always fighting when they are reeled in, hence the name. 

This species prefers the cold waters in the high mountains or the coastal region. However, the cold temperatures affect their reproduction. Unlike other types of trout, bull trout do not spawn every season. Bull trout are currently listed as a threatened species.

Lake Trout

Photo showing the face of a Lake trout
Scientific nameSalvelinus namaycush
Other namesMackinaw trout, Salmon trout, Great lakes trout, Lake char
AppearanceDark-green, olive, gray, brown colors, silvery sides
Average weight and length15 to 40 pounds, 20 to 30 inches
HabitatDeep, cold, and freshwater environs
RangeAlaska, North America
Conservation statusNot yet evaluated

Did you know lake trout can live for 20-25 years? The oldest recorded lake trout was 62 years old. Thanks to this long lifespan, these fish have an average weight of 40 pounds. Still, there have been cases where the breed exceeded 100 pounds!

The breed is currently threatened by overexploitation and sea lamprey. However, restoration plans are underway to increase the population.

Brook Trout

A photo of a Brook trout
Scientific nameSalvelinus fontinalis
Other namesEastern brook trout, brook charr, speckled trout, brookie, mud trout, squaretail, coaster trout
AppearanceOlive-green color, yellow spots, streamlined body
Average weight and length1 to 6 pounds, 10 to 26 inches
HabitatHigh elevation, heavy forests
RangeEastern North America, Canada, Alaska
Conservation statusNot listed

Brook trout thrive in icy water. They are too sensitive to water changes, and their populations decrease when exposed to water pollution. 

The species feeds on insects and small fish. If you are interested in catching the speckled trout, plan your fishing trip around dawn or dusk. They retreat and hide during the day, only to become active at sunrise and sunset. 

These trout spawn during fall and have a lifespan of two to three years.

Types of Trout: Wrapping It Up

Now you know the 14 types of trout species you can find in streams, lakes, or creeks. Each species is unique, whether native, hybrid, or invasive. How many types of trout have you encountered so far? We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below!