Please Help Identify!

neilstallings

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Hey everyone!

Last summer I backpacked to an alpine lake in Western Washington and caught several fish. Elevation was 3800' and the lake was fairly small with snow runoff nearly year round. I caught two or three typical rainbows (picture included), but what really made me scratch my head was one that I assumed to be a cutthroat at first glance. It was a female and has the red gill plate, but no slash under the jaw. What really interested me was the DARK red fins with slightly white edges (but not on the dorsal or pectorals). She seemed to be an old timer based on the wear and tear on her fins and seemed to be losing scales sadly. Released her right away after snapping this picture, but the longer it's been since then, the more I wonder what she was.

I know there are cases of trout cross-breeding (Tiger Trout), especially in small lakes with little contact and it becomes their only option for survival, but I'm not finding any pictures like this anywhere online. Thanks for your help identifying this beauty!IMG_0775.jpgDSC00781.jpg
 

Ard

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Hi Neil,

I don't fish down there but the fish on left appears to be a typical rainbow trout. You could probably research whether or not the particular lake receives stockings. Sometimes the spawning process will account for some pretty ragged fins on trout but if they are planted they can be that way from hatchery life also.

One thing for sure that will help with future questions would be to get a small camera capable of a little better image quality. The better the pictures the more positive the ID process.

Ard
 

cooutlaw

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I'd call that out as a cutbow, we have a lot of them in our neck of the woods, mostly found in high elevation mountain lakes and streams. It's a rainbow/cutthroat hybrid...pretty common here. They can become whoppers. Some states are trying to eradicate them as exclusively native cut throat populations are becoming tough to come by. I believe, if not mistaken, the fins get "red-er" during spawn. May explain, the beat up fins too. pics below:

https://i0.wp.com/flylordsmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/4-13-1.jpg?zoom=6.5&resize=696,464

https://nas.er.usgs.gov/XIMAGESERVERX/2010/20100416105002.jpg


Link on how to identify: How To Identify A Cutbow - Rainbow/Cutthroat Hybrid Pictures

Cutbow Trout:

Cutbows are fertile hybrids of rainbow trout and one of the cutthroat species. Where rainbows and cutthroats occur naturally together, these hybrids rarely occur. However, with the introduction of rainbows into native cutthroat populations, hybridization often occurs and is view as a serious threat to cutthroat populations due to the loss of genetic integrity.

Depending on the rainbow-cutthroat mix, these hybrids may take on markings very close to either parentage, or any of numerous blends. Typically they will have a bit of the orange/red slash on the throat that is so distinctive of cutthroats and often with a hint of the red stripe down the side that is distinctive of rainbows.

These hybrids can show in most any water that native cutthroats exit and where rainbows exist, the clear, cold water of mountain streams and lakes. Cutbows are also intentionally stocked in some states to provide anglers with another fishing opportunity.

The life cycle, habitat requirements, and food preferences are the same as their parents, which are essentially the same for both species, as they are very similar fish.
 
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flav

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That's just a typical wild rainbow. My local native redside rainbows look just like that until they get to maybe 15 inches. The fish in my avatar picture, if you can see it, looks pretty similar. Generally lake fish don't look like that, they're more silvery, especially if they're hatchery fish.
 

ivory arrow

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I am going to agree with the others. I don’t see anything out of the ordinary. They call them rainbows for a reason. They can show a lot of different colors from fish to fish. Even if they aren’t hybridized.












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Ard

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Now that we have that solved here's one for you identification types :)



During the years here I've caught many trout with everything from the pure silver sides of a fresh steelhead to this little guy above. I fish the river it came from every fall for a couple days and have never seen any of his kin as of yet.

So what is that?
 

ivory arrow

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That’s a doozy Ard. Interesting looking fish.


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Ard

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It appeared to be a male of maybe 12" and healthy.



Same fish different angle, agreed that it was really a one of a kind for me. I've been catching them for quite a while and never saw one like that. The river is a glacial type with nomadic trout populations that no doubt travel great distances between fall and winter so I have no idea if I'll ever see another.

I find a lot of what I see called Leopard Rainbows and all kinds like I said earlier. I like the all silver ones because I'm pretty sure they have came in from the Inlet. That's what keeps me fishing, looking for those larger sea runs :)

BTW I am not sure but I think the red under the jaw was blood from the edge of the jaw. The hook was a #6 Bartleet with a Jock O' Dee traditional tied to it. It could have been pigment in the fish too, I really forget.
 

cooutlaw

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Sorry Gents, respectfully, I'll stick with my initial response....I would have totally agreed with common Rainbow.. EXCEPT... for the white tipped fins...considered the dead giveaway of identification (genetic crossbreeding symptom-mutation) explained in more detail if you read the previous links I posted.

I'm not a smart guy and certainly no expert on fish biology, but I get my flies from a very avid local fly tier (I tie but not very well), who is also one of the head fisheries biologist for Colorado Division of Wildlife by day job, and after I asked the same thing, he graciously took a few minutes to help me identify the differences. I knew no difference, and honestly wasn't pinpoint enough in my observations to catch the indicators.

After his explanation it made sense- ANY Hybrid can be a mix of genes and colorations, some traits from all contributors, but regardless of the parentage, ALL hybrids will have white tipped fins...ALL pure species will not....additionally, he confirmed that hybridization is so common it may effect 15%+ of total fish population.. and continues for generations and generations of fish...and that people catch hybrids constantly and never know they are hybrids....he explained it like this; Rainbow X CutThroat = Cutbow, now cutbow breeds another rainbow...new fish looks exactly like rainbow...but still has a white tipped fin or two...three generations later of all rainbow breeding....exactly a rainbow....but still carries maybe only one small white tipped fin....the white tipped fin is the mark of the beast, so to speak.

He jokingly explained that biologist have still never figured out a way how to control who the trout date.

For what it's worth, that was the explanation I received and my understanding. I'm assuming, that since he is a way smarter guy than me, that he is probably accurate and figure I'll go with that.
 
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flav

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White tipped fins might indicate a hybrid in Colorado where rainbows are a recent introduction, but white tipped fins are normal on both the native rainbows and native cutthroat from the area that fish was caught so you can't base it on that alone. The native redband rainbows where I live usually have orange throat slashes and white tipped fins, but nobody considers them a cuttbow. They do share common ancestors, though, that's well established.

Ard, your fish looks like a rainbow with odd coloring to me. A couple years ago I caught a single rainbow with an orange stripe. Not red or pink, bright orange. I wish I'd taken a picture of it, I've never seen anything like it before or since. You just never know what you're going to catch some days.
 

troutman75

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Ard - my money is on a rainbow/brown trout hybrid. It has the characteristics of both.
I know some (most?) will claim this to be impossible, but I claim that it would be dependant of whether the water is stocked or not. A few years ago a very strangely patterned salmonid was genetically identified as a brown trout/arctic char hybrid. Not very likely in a natural ecosystem, but it was a stocked water.
 

Ard

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Hi troutman,

Based on where I found the oddly marked fish I'd say there is almost a zero chance of there being a brown trout anywhere near. The stocking of trout does occur in Alaska but as far as I know they go into still water environments like the lakes in Anchorage and Palmer. Once you get out on the remote rivers here any fish you find will be a wild one that came from the river.

Hi flav,

I had pretty much wrote it off as a rainbow trout with some strange markings. I just posted the picture because I had it :)
 

cpiercem

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There is a lot of variation in rainbows as well as cutthroats. One small creek here in Idaho has rainbows with the most unusual coloration that I have ever seen. It is a brushy little creek, and I don't fish it often, so I only came up with a couple of pictures. When I talked with one of the fisheries biologists he thought that many many years ago McCloud Rainbows from Northern California were planted there. But this is the typical coloration on the average rainbows from this creek. I have caught some even more colorful.



Of course the Monsters Inc bandaid is there for contrast. :D
 

cooutlaw

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White tipped fins might indicate a hybrid in Colorado where rainbows are a recent introduction, but white tipped fins are normal on both the native rainbows and native cutthroat from the area that fish was caught so you can't base it on that alone. The native redband rainbows where I live usually have orange throat slashes and white tipped fins, but nobody considers them a cuttbow. They do share common ancestors, though, that's well established.

Ard, your fish looks like a rainbow with odd coloring to me. A couple years ago I caught a single rainbow with an orange stripe. Not red or pink, bright orange. I wish I'd taken a picture of it, I've never seen anything like it before or since. You just never know what you're going to catch some days.
We can agree to disagree. But I think that you are shorting yourself of some potential understanding and maybe overlooking the fact that the fish you are catching are carrying some form of hybridization within their genetic line....coulda been 5-10-20 years ago....they are not completely 100% pure species, maybe 95%-99%Rainbow, but not pure. NATIVE does NOT equal pure species....native, if anything, gave that geneolgy of fish greater time to cross-breed. And the other "species" of trout in your area (redband Rainbows etc,)...they are subspecies.....better known as hybrids.

Colorado newly introduced to Rainbow Trout? Or any other trout form for that matter? How about in the 1800s !! Guess that's new, kinda compared to dinosaur days- but trout have been in the Rocky Mountains a day or two now. White tipped fins have nothing to do with when a trout was introduced anywhere....it has everything to do with displaying the sign of being a hybridization somewhere within it's genetics.

But, it wouldn't matter of the fish had been in any location for 500 years...they cross-bred and different subspecies are present....particularly in trout which have literally dozens and dozens of subspecies EVERYWHERE they exist.

You may be catching a certain trout species and all the trout you catch may look like the same ("normal" as you call it)....all may have white tipped fins, and you think that's "normal" for that species, however, guess what, they carry a hybrid cross somewhere...and that areas population of fish are affected by that cross....could been a dozen years ago...doesn't matter, they may all look that way, doesn't matter....there is a hybrid cross in there.....to list every possible subspecies of potential cross would be a daunting task, so we simply call them all Rainbow, Brown, Brook, Cutthroat, steelhead, whatever....as that's what they "PREDOMINANTLY" appear to be, (Hybrid Zygosity), but they are still not 100% completely pure species. Your white tipped fin catches are "NORMAL" for your area...that giant ongoing gene pool of fish where you are, were hybrid influenced at some point in time. Normal for your area, sure, but nonetheless still hybrid influenced. Native? yes. Rainbow trout common to your geography? Sure. 100% Pure Species? Nope.

Colorado Fishing Network: Species of Fish in Colorado

Rainbow trout - Wikipedia (read the second paragraph variances in coloration and WHY?- Subspecies (hybrid influence) is why.)
 

flav

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Cooutlaw, I wholeheartedly agree wth you, there is a lot of hybridzation and shared genetics in all these rainbow and cutthroat subspecies on the west coast, and I was definitely referring to what we consider normal in the strains of rainbows and cutts that we have in the PNW. Cuttbow is a term you just never hear in this part of the country, even though they're probably common in the waters where both species exist naturally.
 

cooutlaw

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Cooutlaw, I wholeheartedly agree wth you, there is a lot of hybridzation and shared genetics in all these rainbow and cutthroat subspecies on the west coast, and I was definitely referring to what we consider normal in the strains of rainbows and cutts that we have in the PNW. Cuttbow is a term you just never hear in this part of the country, even though they're probably common in the waters where both species exist naturally.
Flav, You are spot on, and I actually think we were saying the same thing in different terminology. We all understand that "rainbows" of the west could have a dozen or more subspecies hybridizations in them, the subspecies is why we see so many dang fish all colored so differently....it would be nearly impossible to call out what's in each fish without some crazy DNA test or something.....kinda like going to an animal shelter where every black dog in there is called a Lab mix,....these trout have been all kinds of mixed up over the decades....it's funny, that each region has their own descriptors, I've lived both in the PNW and the Rockies, so luckily I understand some of the nomenclatures, like humpy's in Washington are Pinks in Canada...We actually have a smaller version of a fish similar in looks to your Red Band's in Colorado that we see on rare occasion, it's a cross between a green back cutthroat and rainbow....we also have tiger trout, which are simply called "natives" in other parts of the southwest....tomato -tomato kind of thing. Truth be known, and a few whiskey's in a fishery guy, I think we'd find that public pressure and the associated demand for stocking of non sterile fish has caused native areas to be anything but native anymore. It'd be a lot easier if they were still just a regular ole' black Lab.
 

sweetandsalt

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I'll add to cooutlaws post that the OP's rainbow also sports sort of parr markings on its flanks, not typical of adult rainbows. That fish could well be a hatchery fish dumped out of a helicopter. There is a wonderful historical reference book about rainbow trout called "An Entirely Synthetic Fish" explaining the legacy through hatchery domestication and extensive unplanned planting the near total absence of pure wild strain rainbows. Every rainbow trout in Montana is genetically hatchery junk strain fish reproducing in the wild with the exception of rainbows in the Kootenai drainage which are the real thing. If you look for a pure-ish none-migratory McCloud River Rainbow, look in Patagonia (planted in 1910) or, to a lesser extent, the upper Delaware (circa 1980's) but not in the McCloud. Alaska though has not had much hatchery planting I imagine and Ard's fish is a fascinating puzzle.
 
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