Please Sign In

Please enter a valid username and password
  • Log in with Facebook
» Not a member? Take a moment to register
» Forgot Username or Password

Why Register?
Signing up could earn you gear (click here to learn how)! It also keeps offensive content off our site.

How Are Your Trout and Salmon ID Skills?

Recent Comments

Categories

Recent Posts

Archives

Syndicate

Google Reader or Homepage
Add to My Yahoo!
Add to My AOL

FlyTalk
in your Inbox

Enter your email address to get our new post everyday.

October 22, 2013

How Are Your Trout and Salmon ID Skills?

By Kirk Deeter

I am surprised by the number of people I fish with who confuse one species of trout or salmon for another. I'm not trying to judge. It is important, however, to know what you've just caught, especially in the context of protecting certain species and complying with fishing regulations when you keep fish to eat. Obviously, you don't want to go over your limit. And in some places, anglers are encouraged to take one kind of fish in order to limit natural competition that threatens another. But it will defeat the purpose if you kill the wrong fish. And it could land you in trouble.

Believe it or not, I've seen people call rainbow trout brown trout, brook trout cutthroats, pink salmon silver salmon, and so forth. Sometimes that red band on the side of a rainbow is subtle, and people see spots, so they assume the fish is a brown trout. It's easy to confuse a cutthroat for a rainbow or a cutt-bow hybrid if you don't look for the little slashes of red or orange below the fish's jaw. 

When I'm fishing with someone and they say, "Hey, look it's a rainbow," when I know it is obviously a cutthroat, I take time to correct them, politely pointing out the telltales that help them identify fish. It's hard to match what you see in a book or magazine with what you actually catch on a river. Time and experience catching many fish are ultimately the best teachers. 

So I'm going to start digging through the archives of my photos to find some shots that will quiz you on fish identification.

I'll warn you in advance that some of these are tricky, starting with this shot right here.

Can you tell me what species this is? For the commenter who gives the most complete answer, including a rough estimate of size, I will send a signed copy of "The Orvis Guide to Fly Fishing for Carp." And no, the fish in this shot is definitely not a carp.

Comments (35)

Top Rated
All Comments
from vasportsman wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

Maybe about a 3 lb steelhead?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Micropterus24 wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

I have some problems IDing salmon, I don't see too many cutthroat but I'm pretty god with the others. Looks like a brown trout to me bc of the white around the spots near the tail, also looks like its yellow on its belly maybe 22-25inch?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Micropterus24 wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

good*

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jpark1078 wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

Looks like a solid 22inch brown trout (salmo trutta morpha fario). The black dots on the back give it away.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

Peekin into the water I'd say the big spotting on top is that of a King Salmon. Salmon and anadromous trout change appearance from saltwater to fresh, and depending on how long they have been in freshwater. Pink Salmon that anglers judge the males by their pronounced hump on their back appear sleek, and all can be very silvery when in the salt, and when just entering freshwater. Dog Salmon, or Chum salmon don't have the pronounced teeth, and stripping they have when in freshwater compared to the saltwater. For example, Deeter had a lot of difficulty judging a brown trout from an Atlantic Salmon. The brown trout can be anadromous, and is the same fish IMO. Deeter was going to look into it months ago. Does anyone know if he did, or not?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from FishontheFly wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

I'm going to say 28" king salmon.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from colbytroutbum wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

23.5" Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from NorthernArcher7890 wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

25" Brown trout

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Nickolas Andrew... wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

Cutthroat 24" 5.6lbs.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from FLYFISHDOG wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

Brown ~guessing a little over 24" Good post on IDing fish. I'm sure lots of fish make it into coolers because folks just don't know. Maybe a post IDing with pics is next?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jvento wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

30" 8-10lb Gravid Rainbow

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Greenjacket95 wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

Atlantic Salmon , 32"

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Greenjacket95 wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

Atlantic Salmon , 32"

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Michael Jager wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

Rainbow trout 26 inches long, 8 lbs 7 oz.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

The tannic water(pictured) found in the far North East has a low ph and not conducive to rainbow trout. Doesn't look like a brookie either so I'm guessing brown trout. But wait, there's more. The size of the fish suggest he is sea run fish possibly making him an atlantic salmon in the 22in range.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

After further review, that fish is 28 inches.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from NCfisher12 wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

Big brown trout. The black spots with the reddish colored circle's around it give it away

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from fliphuntr14 wrote 25 weeks 21 hours ago

atlantic salmon about 27inchs. I say atlantic salmon because the spots do not travel down past the lateral line of the fish and typically from what I can gather browns have complete coloration when into the rivers. Also the dorsal fin has some spotting rather than lines or defined dots. I could be very wrong with assuming that this fish is caught in the united states because brown trout (atlantic run or several other european strains other than german we are used to here have many different colorations)
That said I think it's a tad funny when fellow fisherman mis-identify trout, there are hazy lines such as the cutthroat-rainbow cuttbows. I had a friend post a picture last year of a Rainbow trout (it was a brown) he caught. To which i said brown is a color but not a color of the rainbow. Our regs books have identifying pictures in the back...

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from SD Bob wrote 25 weeks 20 hours ago

I'd say Atlantic Salmon. Not enough spots to be a brown plus they don't go down the flanks unless the water is preventing us from seeing them. Based on the width of the watch band being maybe 1 inch, I'm estimating 27 inches? but it appears Fliphunter beat me to the guess?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from leifjohn wrote 25 weeks 20 hours ago

Atlantic Salmon was the first thing that came to my mind...

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from LostLure wrote 25 weeks 11 hours ago

I have trouble with my salmon ID, I'll I've ever caught were Coho and spawning Kokanee. But with this I'm going to go with the majority and say Atlantic Salmon

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from steelmaster wrote 25 weeks 10 hours ago

I would say an Atlantic Salmon. Mainly because the spots are big, spread out and on the top half the body. Its not a brown because there are not enough spots, and its definitely not a rainbow. Its not a king or a coho because the spots are too big. I would say this atlantic is roughly 26-28" and 6-8lbs. I would guess it is a female and it was caught in the St. Mary's.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from themadflyfisher wrote 25 weeks 9 hours ago

We've seen this picture before haven't we?
At first glance I thought it to be a sea run Brown trout. But I'm really not sure. It could be a Salmon but unfortunately I don't know Salmon very well. That said I'm going with my gut on a 26" sea run Brown trout in the 7lb range.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from benjaminwc wrote 25 weeks 5 hours ago

Ah what the hell. I'll go crazy and say it's a 26" Lenok.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 25 weeks 2 hours ago

Trust Dangle. I guided salmon anglers for many years in the lower 48, and in Alaska. I guided the fishing editor of this magazine for Silver Salmon in Alaska. It is the "TYEE", the Chinook Salmon! What happened to Deeter on this one? He must be still trying to differentiate between an anadromous Brown Trout, (Sea-trout), and an Atlantic Salmon.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from idahoelkandflyguy wrote 25 weeks 2 hours ago

It looks to me like a good fighter for a 5x tippet in front of a size 16 nymph! He'll argue amongst your selves, I'm goin fishin!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from idahoelkandflyguy wrote 25 weeks 2 hours ago

Ooops, that's "ya'll argue amongst your selves." I hate when this thing thinks it knows what I want to say better than I do.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Rhythm Rider wrote 25 weeks 1 hour ago

Obviously, that's a 73" 92# tarpon. Caught a couple last week here in Colorado.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from markmarko50 wrote 24 weeks 6 days ago

my eyes are getting old and I want to see more of that fish...however it appears to be a Chinook or perhaps a jack king salmon depending on it's length....Ps..thank you Rhythm Rider for your making me smile, I would be on my way to Colo. to try out some of that tarpon fishing, but politics have gotten in my way...good luck to you.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from markmarko50 wrote 24 weeks 6 days ago

my eyes are getting old and I want to see more of that fish...however it appears to be a Chinook or perhaps a jack king salmon depending on it's length....Ps..thank you Rhythm Rider for your making me smile, I would be on my way to Colo. to try out some of that tarpon fishing, but politics have gotten in my way...good luck to you.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jkronenwetter wrote 24 weeks 6 days ago

landlocked atlantic salmon (male) 24.5" Taken somewhere with tannic acid-stained waters

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from avaughan wrote 24 weeks 6 days ago

My guess is a 28'', 8 lbs atlantic salmon. My guess is based on the spots stopping at the lateral line and the shape of the tail. To take it one step further, I'm going to say it is from a Lake Ontario trib......I've caught a few that look similar to that one.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 24 weeks 4 days ago

Where's the Deeter on this one? Still out attempting to find the difference between an anadromous brown, and an Atlantic it appears.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Keith West wrote 24 weeks 4 days ago

The sparse spotting pattern on the back makes it look like an atlantic salmon. I'm guessing 27" and 7.5 lbs

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from bsheahan1229 wrote 24 weeks 23 hours ago

6in. bottlenose dolphin

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Rhythm Rider wrote 25 weeks 1 hour ago

Obviously, that's a 73" 92# tarpon. Caught a couple last week here in Colorado.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from vasportsman wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

Maybe about a 3 lb steelhead?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Micropterus24 wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

I have some problems IDing salmon, I don't see too many cutthroat but I'm pretty god with the others. Looks like a brown trout to me bc of the white around the spots near the tail, also looks like its yellow on its belly maybe 22-25inch?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Micropterus24 wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

good*

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jpark1078 wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

Looks like a solid 22inch brown trout (salmo trutta morpha fario). The black dots on the back give it away.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

Peekin into the water I'd say the big spotting on top is that of a King Salmon. Salmon and anadromous trout change appearance from saltwater to fresh, and depending on how long they have been in freshwater. Pink Salmon that anglers judge the males by their pronounced hump on their back appear sleek, and all can be very silvery when in the salt, and when just entering freshwater. Dog Salmon, or Chum salmon don't have the pronounced teeth, and stripping they have when in freshwater compared to the saltwater. For example, Deeter had a lot of difficulty judging a brown trout from an Atlantic Salmon. The brown trout can be anadromous, and is the same fish IMO. Deeter was going to look into it months ago. Does anyone know if he did, or not?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from FishontheFly wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

I'm going to say 28" king salmon.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from colbytroutbum wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

23.5" Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from NorthernArcher7890 wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

25" Brown trout

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Nickolas Andrew... wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

Cutthroat 24" 5.6lbs.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from FLYFISHDOG wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

Brown ~guessing a little over 24" Good post on IDing fish. I'm sure lots of fish make it into coolers because folks just don't know. Maybe a post IDing with pics is next?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jvento wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

30" 8-10lb Gravid Rainbow

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Greenjacket95 wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

Atlantic Salmon , 32"

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Greenjacket95 wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

Atlantic Salmon , 32"

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Michael Jager wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

Rainbow trout 26 inches long, 8 lbs 7 oz.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

The tannic water(pictured) found in the far North East has a low ph and not conducive to rainbow trout. Doesn't look like a brookie either so I'm guessing brown trout. But wait, there's more. The size of the fish suggest he is sea run fish possibly making him an atlantic salmon in the 22in range.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

After further review, that fish is 28 inches.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from NCfisher12 wrote 25 weeks 1 day ago

Big brown trout. The black spots with the reddish colored circle's around it give it away

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from fliphuntr14 wrote 25 weeks 21 hours ago

atlantic salmon about 27inchs. I say atlantic salmon because the spots do not travel down past the lateral line of the fish and typically from what I can gather browns have complete coloration when into the rivers. Also the dorsal fin has some spotting rather than lines or defined dots. I could be very wrong with assuming that this fish is caught in the united states because brown trout (atlantic run or several other european strains other than german we are used to here have many different colorations)
That said I think it's a tad funny when fellow fisherman mis-identify trout, there are hazy lines such as the cutthroat-rainbow cuttbows. I had a friend post a picture last year of a Rainbow trout (it was a brown) he caught. To which i said brown is a color but not a color of the rainbow. Our regs books have identifying pictures in the back...

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from SD Bob wrote 25 weeks 20 hours ago

I'd say Atlantic Salmon. Not enough spots to be a brown plus they don't go down the flanks unless the water is preventing us from seeing them. Based on the width of the watch band being maybe 1 inch, I'm estimating 27 inches? but it appears Fliphunter beat me to the guess?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from leifjohn wrote 25 weeks 20 hours ago

Atlantic Salmon was the first thing that came to my mind...

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from LostLure wrote 25 weeks 11 hours ago

I have trouble with my salmon ID, I'll I've ever caught were Coho and spawning Kokanee. But with this I'm going to go with the majority and say Atlantic Salmon

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from steelmaster wrote 25 weeks 10 hours ago

I would say an Atlantic Salmon. Mainly because the spots are big, spread out and on the top half the body. Its not a brown because there are not enough spots, and its definitely not a rainbow. Its not a king or a coho because the spots are too big. I would say this atlantic is roughly 26-28" and 6-8lbs. I would guess it is a female and it was caught in the St. Mary's.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from themadflyfisher wrote 25 weeks 9 hours ago

We've seen this picture before haven't we?
At first glance I thought it to be a sea run Brown trout. But I'm really not sure. It could be a Salmon but unfortunately I don't know Salmon very well. That said I'm going with my gut on a 26" sea run Brown trout in the 7lb range.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from benjaminwc wrote 25 weeks 5 hours ago

Ah what the hell. I'll go crazy and say it's a 26" Lenok.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 25 weeks 2 hours ago

Trust Dangle. I guided salmon anglers for many years in the lower 48, and in Alaska. I guided the fishing editor of this magazine for Silver Salmon in Alaska. It is the "TYEE", the Chinook Salmon! What happened to Deeter on this one? He must be still trying to differentiate between an anadromous Brown Trout, (Sea-trout), and an Atlantic Salmon.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from idahoelkandflyguy wrote 25 weeks 2 hours ago

It looks to me like a good fighter for a 5x tippet in front of a size 16 nymph! He'll argue amongst your selves, I'm goin fishin!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from idahoelkandflyguy wrote 25 weeks 2 hours ago

Ooops, that's "ya'll argue amongst your selves." I hate when this thing thinks it knows what I want to say better than I do.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from markmarko50 wrote 24 weeks 6 days ago

my eyes are getting old and I want to see more of that fish...however it appears to be a Chinook or perhaps a jack king salmon depending on it's length....Ps..thank you Rhythm Rider for your making me smile, I would be on my way to Colo. to try out some of that tarpon fishing, but politics have gotten in my way...good luck to you.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from markmarko50 wrote 24 weeks 6 days ago

my eyes are getting old and I want to see more of that fish...however it appears to be a Chinook or perhaps a jack king salmon depending on it's length....Ps..thank you Rhythm Rider for your making me smile, I would be on my way to Colo. to try out some of that tarpon fishing, but politics have gotten in my way...good luck to you.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jkronenwetter wrote 24 weeks 6 days ago

landlocked atlantic salmon (male) 24.5" Taken somewhere with tannic acid-stained waters

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from avaughan wrote 24 weeks 6 days ago

My guess is a 28'', 8 lbs atlantic salmon. My guess is based on the spots stopping at the lateral line and the shape of the tail. To take it one step further, I'm going to say it is from a Lake Ontario trib......I've caught a few that look similar to that one.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 24 weeks 4 days ago

Where's the Deeter on this one? Still out attempting to find the difference between an anadromous brown, and an Atlantic it appears.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Keith West wrote 24 weeks 4 days ago

The sparse spotting pattern on the back makes it look like an atlantic salmon. I'm guessing 27" and 7.5 lbs

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from bsheahan1229 wrote 24 weeks 23 hours ago

6in. bottlenose dolphin

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment