Redband vs. Rainbow trout

Ok I've been doing allot of research and still have some questions so lay some knowledge on me. I'm trying to figure out what exactly the difference is between a true Rainbow and one of the many species/subspecies of Redband trout are. From what they say and pictures I'm not sure I've ever seen or can find a picture of a true 100% Rainbow trout. What's the easiest way to distinguish the two? Post a pic of the two if you have them. Looking forward to what you have to say.
Fishfry I enjoy your post on the Klamath rainbows......nice fish for sure.

As for the difference between a rainbow and a redside I know little. I know there is a ton of information here on the internet about the difference, and I'll post a link that covers it. I fish the Deschutes and the Crooked and I have caught what I believe to be redsides. Nice looking sharp fined fish with lots of color. I understand one way to tell the difference between the two is a redband will have a white tipped anal and pelvic fin. You can see it in the pictures in the link. I have read and heard that all redsides are rainbows but not all rainbows are redsides. Kind of like all cognac is brandy but not all brandy is cognac. Leave it to an Irish guy to reduce the thread to booze.;) Should be interesting..

Fish Resources
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Ty very much Irish. I read this article and like some others it says Redbands rarely exceed 10 inches lol. They look nothing like the trout I catch either. So far the only thing I've seen to identify them as RB's is the white tips on the fins.
FF, are the brute's that you catch actually steelies...or, do they not go to sea and back?
Sadly no, I've never had the joy of catching a steelie :( The waters I fish don't have any sea run trout.
Mad dog
Fishfry, Shut up and go fishin', you're thinking too much! ;) :lol:

I believe all native rainbows in the Klamath basin are Redbands, I don't know what the differences are? Don't care! I do know Klamath basin trout have a distinctive look that other rainbows don't have.
Lmao. Good stuff, its not often I get accused of overthinking. Guess I couldn't spot the diff cause this part of the country is really the only place I've fished for trout.
I don't think I've ever landed a "Redside" that looks like the one in the picture on the link. But that's ok by me because I'm just looking for that tug, tug,tug on the line. I doesn't matter if it a halibut or a brookie I just like that tug! Maybe Mad Dog has a point! I've seen good fishing rods ruined from the vibrations caused by thinking too hard.;)
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Lol. Very true very true :) Was just making sure I had it straight and it looks like I pretty much did. Putting my brain away now and picking up my fishing pole ;p
The easiest way to put it is rainbow trout is the species, there are six different subspecies one of which is the redband.
I've grown up catching bows and bands in Southern Oregon since I was a kid. First, realize that each species of fish has several subspecies. There are four species of fish which are more common than all others combined. These fish are the Common Carp, the Florida strain of the Largemouth Bass, the Brown Trout, and the Shasta strain of the Rainbow Trout. Almost all of rainbows in Oregon that are planted are of the Shasta strain, which is native to the Sacremento River Basin in Northern/Central California.

The "Redband" is a subspecies of the Rainbow Trout that is found--not only in the Klamath Basin--but all over Southern and Central Oregon. I created a list of characteristics that could help someone differentiate the two long ago.

* Redband Trout are a subspecies of Rainbow Trout that could possibly have any combination of the following:

- a darker and/or broader red stripe along the lateral line than normal
- olive colored vertically pointing ovals on their sides (parr marks)--even in adulthood
- white edges on their pectoral and anal fins
- distinctive lack of black spotting in fish over 12"

The majority of South Central Oregon's wild rainbows are redbands. Certain exceptions do arise, and even in the Klamath Basin, both subspecies coexist, although redbands are the dominant fish. Rainbows planted in Spring Creek eventually make their way downstream, and I have caught an honest to goodness rainbow in Spencer Creek, almost 75 miles of water from Spring Creek. Another area that I have regularly caught both species in Cottonwood Meadows Lake by Lakeview. There are hatchery rainbows and native redbands there, and the difference is very apparent.

Below is a link to my facebook page, which has several pictures of redbands and rainbows. The key distinction is that large redbands are usually just silver looking with a red stripe, whereas large rainbows are very spotted and more colorful. If it looks like a salmon while still being a trout, that is a redband.
Thanks for the info Sportsmanlio! I get that question a lot from my non-fishing or casual fishing guests. The true fishermen have always explained it as redbands are like land-locked steelhead -- big like a steelhead, fight like one, etc. We have some monster redbands, all native of course, here on Crystal Creek, and your description fits really well.
halibuthitman said:
here is a photo of a uncorupted native rainbow,

I agree on the high quality of this thread and the links that have been provided. From one link I also learned that there are Bull Trout in the upper reaches of the Malhuer river well above Warm Springs Dam.

As for your picture... The descriptions given mention the white on the pectoral and annul fins of Red Bands which I think I'm seeing in your photo? But I agree that it looks like a native Rainbow like many I've caught throughout the western states. Where did you catch that one at? I like the gloved hand release as well, I'm impressed as always with the way you handle fish.
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No two redbands are the same. Although it is nebulous, that is why I wrote, "could possibly have any of the following characteristics." There are other subspecies of rainbows that have these white fins. Additionally, "cutbows," the hybrids of rainbows and cutthroats usually have white on the fin edges.

Another general rule is that rainbows are very pretty and colorful, whereas redbands are mostly silver with the red stripe or band, and are much less vibrantly-colored.

If only it were as easy as counting the dorsal spines as with black and white crappie...
If it were easy anyone could do it, Right! I like reading information that is well thought out and as helpful as yours, Sportmanlio. Thanks for contributing. I'm planning for a summer trip from Hillsboro to somewhere else in Oregon to fish and I haven't decided to go East or South! I'm intrigued by both areas.
Thanks GD, the trout above was caught in alaska on the Naha river, the white tips on a rainbows fins has more to do with its enviroment than its linage, I have found that almost all the white tipped bows I have caught come from freestone or hard rock bottomed fast flowing rivers.. lake bows don't seem to have it, which leads me to believe that the finns get broomed off and are constantly regenerating on a freestone creek or river. the naha has never had man intoduced filth fish.. completely native since the begining of time. some other things I have noticed is that rainbows have the fat gene, becoming obeasly fat and football shaped in some rivers, redbands appear to just get shoulders and more length, but I have caught very few "football" redbands. I believe the mcloud "shasta" rainbow is the origanal strain of true rainbow.. but I could be wrong. The real question is what came first, the steelhead or the rainbow.. its a much debated question, rainbows of any strain did not exist in watersheds that lacked a steelhead run, some of those montana rivers that are so legendary actually never had bows, just cutts ( a superior fish in my book ) man has been moving the shasta strain of rainbow around for over a hundred years. Bristol bay alaska has rainbows of a massive proportion, but long ago also had steelhead runs that naturally diminished to present time. Lakes, inland streams and ponds that seem like they could have never been connected to the ocean most likely were pre-dam or older eras but natural shifts cut them off and the fish became resident fish that just started spawning in the local creek or river turning into an eco system similar to the ocean /river ecosystem steelhead use. I bet there are less than 50 rivers in the american west that have not suffered at the hands of white bucket biology and states attempting to increase fishing possibilitys.. so I guess next time we hold a stunning redband or bow we should just smile and thank god.. and kinda let the biology go.. after all.. all fish are noble... to somebody- Good fishin-
Very poetic HH. I think that is interesting! I haven't caught many football bands either, come to think of it. I'm not sure if the bit about no non-steelhead rainbows is true, though. I know there are two types of trout/salmon: anadromous (i.e. Pacific salmon) and stationary or freshwater-only forms. Most species of trout have both variants, and they usually have seperate names although they are different subspecies the same species (i.e. Bull Trout & Dolly Varden, Brown Trout & Sea Trout, Steelhead & Rainbows, Coastal Cutts & Westslope Cutts).

You may be right on there being no freshwater-only rainbows, but I have never heard this before...where did you read this? I am interested now :)
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ok, full hijack in progress... sorry. I did not read any of this, over the last 16 years I have documented 11 steelhead runs that the dept of fish and game in alaska never knew existed, and several of which they have decided not to record simply becouse the runs are obviously too small to consider viable runs, through that I became associated with a biologist who's sole goal in life is proving the sea-fresh trout and char theory. I have caught well over a thousand fish for his research and spent weeks in the field in british columbia, alaska, and california. Its quite simple, life evolves from the sea, not the other way around. ALL fresh water char and trout have native habitats that include a sea run variant of themselves, west slope cutts are a variant of the rea run, east slope cuts, lake trout and bull trout are all related to the clarke fork passage created by lake missoula.. lake missoula had an ice dam that broke over 40 times in 2000 years creating the columbia basin and its ensuing lakes. the trout of the platte and rio grande also probably evolved from the trout and char that crossed the great divide in the clarke fork, which is probably one of the most crucial trout rivers to the evolution of the rocky mountain cutts and char. a bull trout is simply a dolly varden.. a brook trout in the eastern mountains is directly related from its sea run cousins as well. German browns, not native to anywhere in north america are a sea run trout also in every single native enviroment.. the rio grande of south america is one of the finest trout evolution proof in the world, and almost the finest trout fiishing in the world. Patagonia recieved a great deal of trout stocking in the turn of the century and is quite geneticly polluted. Its not by coinicidence that the finest rainbow trout river on south americas east coast is also the only natural steelhead run on the east coast. There is simply no example of a NATIVE char or trout population in the americas that does not have a direct correlation to a sea run variant... and evolution takes place from the sea.. not the other way around. I certainly would entertain any challenges of a trout or char that stands alone land locked, but the fact that sockeye, chinook, sturgeon, and some bass can be transfered to fresh water and live, but there is no fresh water fish that can withstand salt water pretty much puts the writing on the wall. but this scientificly is all considered speculation... so it cannot be quoted as fact-
Your post intrigues me. These theories are fascinating, and I fear we may be extending beyond the scope of fishing, but that is fine with me. Though I am not personally beholden to the Theory of Evolution, I do believe a cataclysmic event did cause the freshwater lakes to intermingle with the saltwater, and I think this did spread some fish species out into new environments.

You are right on the money otherwise. Bull sharks, gobies, and a number of other saltwater or brackish fish are known to not survive, but thrive in freshwater. Your theory makes sense to some degree, but I undestand it is just a theory.

Regardless, the fish of the Klamath Basin are considered a dinstinct subset of rainbow trout. They are native, and have been part of this river system since long before man came into the area. The fact that any redband trout from the Klamath River Basin is not eligible for the Rainbow Trout State Record in Oregon shows that biologists recogize this as a completely different--superior, in my opinion--type of Rainbow Trout.

The State of Oregon record for Rainbow Trout is 28 lbs 0 oz. The official lake record in Upper Klamath Lake is 37 lbs 0 oz. There is a reproduction of this fish on the wall at the Rocky Point Resort. Reports of fish even larger do exist, and several dead fish well in excess of 20 pounds have been found.

The fact that this lake is so large means the fish are hard to find. Upper Klamath Lake is the largest perennial freshwater lake in Oregon, so it makes sense that it would hold some of the largest fish.
The freshwater form is called rainbow trout or redband trout, based on the broad red band along their sides. The easiest way to put it is rainbow trout is the species, there are six different subspecies one of which is the redband.
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