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Origins of the Palomino Trout and the West Virginia Gold Rush

Updated: Dec 12, 2023


Also known as “West Virginia Golden Trout”, or “Golden Rainbow Trout”, Palomino Trout are a fish species born in the hills of West Virginia. These bright, yellow-colored trout are famous for their vibrant appearance, making them easily distinguishable from other trout species and a hell of a lot of fun to target. Often thought to be a separate species entirely, Palomino Trout are actually a genetic variant of the Rainbow Trout.



Appearance


Palomino Trout are stunning creatures with bright-yellow to gold-colored skin that is speckled with small black spots. Their fins are typically bright-orange or red and sometimes appear translucent. Their gill plates and mouths are distinctively bright-red, adding to their overall aesthetic appeal. Palomino Trout are visually striking and can often be spotted in a creek or river and easily targeted by anglers.


Origins of the Golden Rainbow


The origins of the Palomino Trout can be traced to a single fish hatchery in West Virginia. In 1955, biologists at the Petersburg Fish Hatchery noticed that one of their fish did not look like the others. A yellow trout was swimming amongst the other rainbows in the hatchery.

Puzzled as to why this happened and what this fish could be, tests were run on the trout. This trout had undergone distinct genetic mutations which caused a bright yellow pigmentation of the skin, instead of a typical rainbow trout pattern. Using this individual trout, through selective breeding, scientists of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources were able to create more of these “Golden Trout”. In 1963, these trout were first released into public waters. Anglers love pursuing this unique and beautiful fish. State biologists recognized they had something special on their hands and 6 years ago decided to create the “West Virginia Gold Rush”.





What is the West Virginia Gold Rush?


Every year in late March / early April anglers from across the country make the trip to the Appalachian hills of West Virginia in search of gold - gold in the form of Golden Rainbow Trout that is. During a 12-day period the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources stock over 50,000 Golden Rainbow Trout throughout the Mountain State, giving anglers a great opportunity to target these fish and land that trophy catch. This year the WVDNR is stocking Golden Trout in 62 lakes, rivers, and streams across the state. A full list of these stocking locations can be found on the WVDNR Website. As expected, a valid West Virginia Fishing License and Trout Stamp are required to participate in this angling event. These can be purchased at a variety of locations throughout the state, as well as through the WVDNR website. This week, the Outdoor Stamps Team will be making the trek to the hills of West Virginia, to take part in this event for the first time. The Palomino Trout is high atop our Trout Species Bucket List, and we are eager to hopefully land a few this coming weekend. So, stay tuned to our social media channels, as we will be posting updates from the trip.





Resources


Trout Angler Bucket List


West Virginia DNR Gold Rush Webpage


Buy a West Virginia Fishing License

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