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Rainbow Trout

Rainbow Trout, illustration by Maynard Reece, from Iowa Fish and Fishing.


Olive to greenish-blue over most of the upper body, fading to a silvery-white along the belly. They are most easily separated from the other trout species by the strikingly prominent pink-red horizontal stripe that extends down each side of the fish. The sides, back, dorsal and caudal fins have small black spots continuing to the distal end of the caudal fin. Like most trout, there are sharp teeth on the vomer in the roof of the mouth. Scale counts along the lateral line range from 135 to 155.


Rainbow Trout Distribution

Not native to Iowa; originating west of the Rocky Mountains from southern California to Alaska. Rainbow Trout populations depend on hatchery production with no known natural reproduction in our streams. All rainbows are raised in hatchery confinement to catchable-size; distribution is controlled in a predetermined schedule based mostly on angler use of a stream -- heavily used streams are stocked more often than lesser used streams. High water temperature is the most limiting factor affecting trout distribution in Iowa, and stocking is stopped in streams when water temperature exceeds 70 degrees.


The diet of released rainbows is highly variable, with some fish feeding very little on natural foods, while others taking nearly anything that drifts by. A large part of the diet is made of mayflies, caddisflies, stoneflies and their larvae, small mollusks and fish.

State Record

19 pounds, 8 ounces - French Creek, Allamakee County, July 1984 - Jack Renner, Waterloo, Iowa

Expert Tip

Use small jigs (1/16 - 1/32 ounce) fished in the deeper part of the pool for exciting rainbow fishing in Iowa.


While the Rainbow Trout tolerates slightly higher water temperatures than other trout, it prefers temperatures below 70 degrees. It lives in streams with stable riffles of rocks and gravel, for nursery and spawning areas; deep pools, overhead cover, and swift current. Rainbow Trout have adapted to areas of cool, deep reservoirs, as well as cold tailwaters below dams. 

Rainbow Trout do not reproduce in Iowa streams. Two strains of Rainbow Trout, fall and winter spawners, are raised at the Manchester Trout Hatchery. Fall strain fish spawn during September and October, and the winter strain spawns in January. Both strains are semi-domesticated fish. Egg production from mature female rainbows is fairly constant, a 3 year old fish weighing 4 pounds will produce about 2,500 eggs; a 4 year old fish weighing 8 pounds yields 5,000 eggs; and a 5 year old, 12 to 15-pound fish gives close to 10,000 eggs. Eggs are removed from the females by hand stripping, since the trout will not spawn naturally in cement raceways.

After spawning, the eggs are incubated for 30 days at a water temperature of 50 degrees. Growth, when on a full-food ration of 1 to 10 percent of the body weight per day, averages about three-fourths of an inch per month. The amount of food supplied to the fish is used in the culture process to control growth. Feeding schedules are designed to produce a one-half pound, 10- to 11-inch fish, within 17 to 24 months after spawning. Rainbow Trout adapt well to the hatchery environment and are disease resistant; thus, they are the most economical to raise.

Rainbow Trout live in open water in streams more than other trout species. They also tend to turn in a vertical posture within the water column.

Rainbow Trout will continue to be our most numerically important fish for stocking as catchable-sized trout. They are easily caught by anglers and provide the greatest amount of fishing recreation for the least cost.

Recent stream sampling information is available from Iowa DNR's biological monitoring and assessment program.


Harlan, J.R., E.B. Speaker, and J. Mayhew. 1987. Iowa fish and fishing. Iowa Conservation Commission, Des Moines, Iowa. 323pp.

Loan-Wilsey, A. K., C. L. Pierce, K. L. Kane, P. D. Brown and R. L. McNeely. 2005. The Iowa Aquatic Gap Analysis Project Final Report. Iowa Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Iowa State University, Ames.

Illustration by Maynard Reece, from Iowa Fish and Fishing.


Present in these Iowa water bodies:

Lake/Stream County Location Acres/Length
Ada Hayden Heritage Park Lake Story North side of Ames, west of Grand Avenue/Highway 69. 137.00
RAPP Park Lakes Page north edge of Shenandoah 95.00
Sand Lake Marshall On the Northeast edge of Marshalltown 95.00
Backbone Lake Delaware 4m SW Strawberry Point, Backbone State Park. 80.00
Upper Iowa River (above Decorah) Winneshiek Find this stretch in Howard and Winneshiek County. A popular access is found in Kendallville Park and Campground off of Hwy 139 about 8 miles northeast of Cresco. 79.00
Prairie Park Fishery Linn 1.5 miles SSE of Cargill on Otis Road, along the Cedar River in Cedar Rapids 66.80
Upper Iowa River (below Decorah) Allamakee This stretch includes Winneshiek and Allamakee County. A popular access is at Lower Dam about 11 miles northeast of Decorah. 57.00
Lake of the Hills Scott .25 miles west of Davenport (CCB) 55.00
Bacon Creek Lake Woodbury east edge of Sioux City 34.00
Yellow River Allamakee Coldwater section begins below Livingood Springs and east of Old Stage Road flowing through Allamakee County and the Effigy Mounds National Monument where it empties into the Mississippi River. 25.00
Banner Lake (south) Warren 4 1/2 miles north of Indianola 24.00
Moorland Pond Webster 23.00
Lake Petocka Polk northeast edge of Bondurant 19.00
Blue Pit Cerro Gordo southwest edge of Mason City 15.00
Paint Creek Allamakee Located in Yellow River State Forest, 3 miles west of Harpers Ferry off of State Forest Road or CR B25. 11.00
Waterloo Creek Allamakee Streams runs through Dorchester along Waterloo Creek Drive and Highway 76. 10.50
North Prairie Lake Black Hawk SW edge of Cedar Falls 10.00
Scharnberg Pond Clay 3m E Everly 10.00
Heritage Pond Dubuque N edge of Dubuque 10.00
Ottumwa Park Pond South (Trout Pond) Wapello Inside Ottumwa city limits off Wapello Street 9.10
Wilson Lake Lee 4 miles east of Donnellson 8.00
Maquoketa River (trout portion) Clayton The Upper Maquoketa River from Joy Springs downstream to Backbone Lake contains trout year-round. The area 3 miles southwest of Strawberry Point off 400th is stocked with catchable fish. 8.00
Terra Lake Polk Within city of Johnston south of Pioneer Parkway. 7.30
East Lake Park Pond Henry Mount Pleasant - City Park 7.00
Bloody Run Creek Clayton Located 2 miles west of Marquette off of Highway 18. 6.50
North Bear Creek Winneshiek Located 2.5 miles northeast of Highlandville. 6.00
South Bear Creek Winneshiek Located at Highlandville. 5.20
Trout River Winneshiek Located 5 miles southeast of Decorah off of 133rd Avenue. 5.00
Big Lake (Including Gilbert's Pond) Pottawattamie North 25th street exit off interstate 29. Nash Blvd to Big Lake Road. Northeast Council Bluffs. 5.00
Sny Magill Creek Clayton Located in the Sny Magill Wildlife Management Area, 3 miles southwest of McGregor along Keystone Road. 5.00
Jefferson Co. Park New Pond Jefferson Southwest edge of Fairfield 4.00
Coldwater Creek Winneshiek Located 3 miles northwest of Bluffton off of Coldwater Creek Road. 4.00
Liberty Centre Pond Johnson One block west off Hwy 965 on Cherry Street 4.00
Swiss Valley Creek Dubuque Located 3 miles south of Dubuque in Swiss Valley Park just off Swiss Valley Road. 3.25
West Canoe Creek Winneshiek About 5.5 miles north of Decorah off CR W34, 320th Street, and Fox Hollow Road. 3.00
Little Paint Allamakee Located in Yellow River State Forest, 3 miles west of Harpers Ferry just off of State Forest Road or CR B25. 3.00
Elk Creek Delaware 2.70
Coon Creek Winneshiek Located in Coon Creek Wildlife Management Area, 7 miles northeast of Decorah. 2.60
Otter Creek Fayette Located 3 miles southeast of West Union. 2.50
McLoud Run Linn Along the east side of I-380 in central Cedar Rapids 2.50
Wapsi River Trout Section Mitchell Located 0.5 mile west of McIntire. 2.50
Big Spring Trout Pond Clayton At entrance to Big Spring Trout Hatchery, near Elkader 2.50
Fountain Springs Delaware 2.5 miles northeast of Greeley along Oak Road. Most of the fishery lies within Fountain Springs County Park 2.30
Spring Branch Delaware 3 miles east-southeast of Manchester off 205th Avenue. Parking available near highway 20 overpass and Manchester Fish Hatchery 2.20
Turtle Creek Mitchell Located about 1/2 mile north of St. Ansgar off of Highway 218. 2.20
Trout Run (Winneshiek) Winneshiek Located on the south side of Decorah off Trout Run Road. 2.20
Upper Swiss Valley Creek Dubuque Located 3 miles south of Dubuque near Swiss Valley Nature Center, just off Swiss Valley Road 2.10
North Cedar Creek Clayton Located 3 miles west of McGregor off of CR B60 or Ivory Road. 2.00
Clear Creek (Lansing) Allamakee Stream runs along Highway 9 through Lansing. Public angling access is at the County Park located off South Road Drive. 2.00
Dalton Pond Jackson 1 mile southeast of Preston 2.00
Discovery Park Pond Muscatine Muscatine CCB, E of Muscatine 1.90
Emma Young Pond Clinton N. 14th St. behind the Erickson Community Center, Clinton 1.80
Canoe Creek Winneshiek 14.5 miles northeast of Decorah on Ferris Mills Road. 1.80
Buck Creek Clayton Located 3 miles northeast of Garnavillo. 1.70
Hickory Creek Allamakee Located 1 mile southwest of Volney off of Hickory Creek Road. 1.50
Grannis Creek Fayette Located in Grannis Creek Wildlife Management Area, 3.5 miles southeast of Fayette off of Grannis Road. 1.50
Richmond Springs Delaware 3 miles south of Strawberry Point. Located entirely within Backbone State Park. Closest to north park gate access. 1.40
Patterson Creek Allamakee Stream located 4 miles northwest of Waukon. 1.40
Wexford Creek Allamakee Located 5 miles north of Harpers Ferry on the Great River Road or CR X52. 1.40
Little Turkey River Delaware 3 miles east of Colesburg in Hoffman Wildlife Management Area off Hubbard Road 1.20
Bear Creek Fayette Located 6 miles southeast of Fayette off of Kornhill Road or CR C24. Access from 128th Street. 1.20
Bellevue Pond Jackson South edge of Bellevue, near Bellevue State Park 1.00
Turkey River Clayton Located 6 miles northwest of Elkader at Big Spring Hatchery. 1.00
Marr Park Pond Washington 1 mile west of Ainsworth. 1.00
Twin Bridges Delaware Just south of Highway 3 about 5.5 miles west of Colesburg in Twin Bridges County Park. 0.90
Mink Creek Fayette Located on private property 1.5 miles north of Wadena, access on Bighorn Road. 0.90
Big Mill Creek Jackson Located on Big Mill Wildlife Management Area, 4.5 miles west of Bellevue just south of Mill Creek Road. 0.90
Spring Creek Mitchell Located on the west edge of Orchard. 0.80
Glovers Creek Fayette Access in Echo Valley State Park, about 3 miles southeast of West Union. 0.80
Joy Springs Clayton South on Alpha Ave, off Highway 3 about 3 miles west of Strawberry Point in Joy Springs County Park. 0.80
Bear Creek Allamakee From Waukon, take Hwy 76 north for 13 miles before turning west onto County Road A26 (Bear Creek Drive). Travel 2.5 miles and turn north on Washington Rd. Take Washington Rd north for about a mile before veering left onto Tahigwa Dr. 0.75
Little Mill Creek Jackson Located on Little Mill Wildlife Management Area and private property 2 miles west of Bellevue, with parking south off 216th street. 0.70
Bigalk Creek Howard Located 7 miles northeast of Cresco. 0.60
Bankston Creek Dubuque Just south of Park Hollow Road, 3 miles north of Bankston in Bankston County Park 0.60
Baileys Ford Delaware 3 miles southeast of Manchester - follow signage from Jefferson Road. 0.60
South Cedar Creek Clayton Located 2 miles south of Garnavillo and may be accessed from Jigsaw Road. 0.50
Brush Creek Jackson Located 3.5 miles north of Andrew just south of 200th street. Only this "upper" section of Brush Creek is stocked. The "lower" section of Brush Creek is no longer stocked with trout and is closed to public fishing. 0.50
Twin Springs Winneshiek Located on the west side of Decorah in Twin Springs City Park. 0.50
Bohemian Creek Winneshiek Located about 1.5 miles east of Protivin. 0.30
Mill Creek Jackson Felderman Park, City of Bellevue 0.30
Dunning Spring Winneshiek Located in Dunnings Spring Park on the north side of Decorah off Ice Cave Road. 0.20
Monastery Creek Dubuque Monastery Creek can be accessed through the Dubuque County Swiss Valley Nature Preserve about 4 miles SW of Dubuque off of Swiss Valley Rd. 0.20
Big Spring Kids Trout Fishing Pond Clayton On the grounds of the Big Spring Trout Hatchery 0.15