This 38-Pound Rainbow Trout Caught on the Feather River Isn’t a Steelhead. Here’s How We Know.

Photo: Josh Giordano

Fisherman Josh Giordano made headlines last week when he landed an estimated 38.2-pound rainbow trout on the Thermalito Diversion Pool, just below the Oroville Dam on the Feather River. The monster fish measured in at 41 inches in length and 27 inches in girth, likely placing it as the state record for rainbow trout. Instead of submitting the fish for the state record, Giordano chose to release it back into the water.

After his story went viral, many people made the observation that the fish wasn’t a rainbow trout, but instead a steelhead. We’re here to tell you it’s DEFINITELY a rainbow trout.

Photo: Josh Giordano

For anyone who isn’t familiar, rainbow trout and steelhead are the same species but live different lifestyles. Rainbow trout spend their entire lives in freshwater. Conversely, steelhead are anadromous, meaning they spend much of their lives in the ocean before traveling to freshwater to breed. A steelhead’s times in the ocean can make it much bigger (and more feisty) than its rainbow brethren. The two fish can be hard to differentiate, but are certainly different.

Many people thought Giordano’s fish was a steelhead due to its large size. But since there are dams below the Thermalito Diversion Pool, it’s impossible for a steelhead to get into that water. In fact, the damming of that water are what make the rainbow so big in the Thermalito Diversion Pool. It’s a very unique fishery.

A 25.5-pound rainbow caught by Giordano on the Feather River. Photo: Josh Giordano

Giordano has been known to catch giant trout in the Thermolito Diversion Pool. He almost landed the state record in 2020 when he landed a 25.5-pound rainbow. Later in 2020, he scored a 28.9-pound rainbow that he chose not to submit for state record.

His recent monster rainbow was caught using a 10-foot, 6-inch Okuma rod with a Pflueger President spinning reel, spooled with 20 PowerPro Braid and topped by a 15-pound XT leader Sunline leader.

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