While I’ve never been a big fan of the hatchery “round-tailed” rainbow trout that get planted in waters throughout the West, I have to say that the Donaldson strain rainbows of Nor. Cal’s Lake Amador (and other places) are extremely cool “truck trout.”
Donaldson’s are a unique strain of trout blended from some of the best attributes of rainbows, steelhead and cutthroat. What you get is a super-fast growing, hard-fighting trout that acts more like a wild one than a hatchery fish. While natural trout mature in 4 years and weigh in around 1.5 pounds, Donaldson Trout mature in two years and can weigh up to 10 pounds.
Donaldson’s are the brainchild of Lauren Donaldson, who in 1932 at the University of Washington, began a selective breeding program to create a “Super Trout”. His goal was to produce a fish with enhanced size, strength, faster maturity rate, and superior reproductive processes than it’s natural counterpart. The conclusion of this program, in 1944, was the development of the Donaldson Trout.
I went out with some buddies to Lake Amador to do a little “investigative journalism” the other day — to see what the hype is really all about. While the bite wasn’t red hot, we caught enough of these bad boys to become extremely impressed. Not only did the fish fight very well — they burned line and jumped all over the place — but they were also very nice looking. Their fins and tails were in much better shape than the average hatchery ‘bow and they were very silver in color (not the usual purple-gray of a planter).
We didn’t eat any (I’ve pretty much given up eating anything from freshwater), but they looked fat and firm and probably taste pretty decent.
As far as hatchery planters go, the Donaldson’s are head and shoulders above any other planter trout I’ve encountered (though I’ve never caught an Alper’s Rainbow in So Cal).