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Rainbow Trout

It makes sense to start at the beginning, and the first question is obviously "what is a trout?" The trout found in Missouri are members of the salmon family, and they act very similar to salmon. We have two primary species available in Missouri: the rainbow trout and the brown trout. There are some rumors floating around about some brook trout and even a few golden trout here and there, but these fish, if they exist, are well guarded in waters without public access. All Missouri trout are restricted to cold water locations where the water temperature doesn't generally move much above 70 degrees, even in the hottest part of the summer. Since the Southern half of Missouri is so rich with springs, there are numerous cold water rivers and streams that are perfect for these fish.

Rainbow trout, once they've lived wild for a while, will feed almost exclusively on aquatic insects (mayflies, caddis, midges, etc.) and terrestrial insects (ants, beetles, grasshoppers, etc.). In some waters, the trout may feed largely on crustaceans like scud (small freshwater shrimp) and cress bugs (aquatic "rolly pollies"). Even the largest rainbow trout will continue to feed on tiny bits of food with the occasional minnow thrown in, if it's an easy target, but extra large rainbows may also become scavengers. This gives them the great amount of protein they need to maintain their size, but also offers them some protection from fisherman. Hatchery fish, however, will bite on any number of items (i.e. corn, marshmallows, dough bait, etc.), mainly because they were raised on lumps of food thrown at them. After stocking, it will take some time for them to experiment with natural food sources before they give up their preference for the hand-fed cafeteria style of feeding. It seems as though all trout, however, have some genetically imprinted desire to eat fish eggs. In virtually every trout stream, a good old fashioned "glo-bug" or the more new-fangled "glu-bug" can work wonders when nothing else will.

After literally decades of trial and error, two primary strains of rainbow trout are now grown in our hatcheries and stocked in our state. These two strains are called the "Missouri Strain" and the "Missouri Arlee Strain". Yep, our state actually developed it's own strains. Cool, eh? The whole point of playing mother nature was to develop a strain of fish that grew quickly, was resistant to disease, and resilient to changing water conditions. The reason for two strains is to have a strain that will spawn in the Autumn and another that will spawn in the Spring. This, of course, increases efficiency and yield from the hatcheries. All in all, they've devised a pretty neat system.