What is the Difference Between Trout and Salmon

Two of the most popular fish in much of the world are trout and salmon. However, there are many instances where they are confused with each other, or you find trout being sold as salmon.

While there is some difference between trout and salmon, there are also a few similarities. Much comes down to the various salmon and trout types there are, although there is enough variance to make them very different.

Here, in our guide, you can learn more about the trout, salmon and the closely related fish. Also, how you can spot the difference when fishing and at the dinner table. (Find the Best Fishing Kayak with Pedals)

Man carrying a trout

Is Salmon and Trout the Same Thing?

If you ever go out fly fishing, there is the chance you’ll be asked what you caught. Here’s a quick breakdown of the differences between a steelhead trout vs salmon types of fish to help you know the answer to this.

Steelhead trout have the scientific name of Oncorhynchus mykiss. They are dark olive in color with a heavily speckled body. With this, there can also be pink stripes running up the sides of their bodies.

A steelhead trout can live to a maximum of around 11 years and weigh approximately 8 to 11 pounds (the largest caught over 20 kgs). This female spawns in springtime, and they migrate through river water to their birthplace for spawning.

They can do this at different times of the year, from May to October over the summer or November and April across the winter.

Salmon isn’t merely one fish, preferably a family or group given to fish of the same species. In this, you can find Chinook, coho, clum, and many more. Most, however, are anadromous and travel from the seawater up the river to spawn. (Read Freshwater Fish To Eat)

Salmon are freshwater born in the river and migrate to the ocean and always return to their river birthplace to spawn.


  • Diet is similar and comprises Krill, which gives them a pink color. The meat is comparable and nearly identical, and an experienced cook can find it difficult to identify between the taste of the two types.
  • Since the two possess similar characteristics, you find the steelhead trout that looks like salmon is still categorized as trout instead of salmon

Here are a few differences between trout and salmon:

Steelhead can live in freshwater or salty water all their lives. Salmon usually spend their life in salty, and freshwater was born in freshwater before migrating to salt water and back to freshwater to spawn. (Read Blue Crabs Eating)

Salmon leave freshwater for the ocean when born. Steelhead trout take around a year before they move. Because of this, they can grow more extensive than the majority of salmon and less likely to be eaten by predators

Many salmon die after spawning, yet steelhead trout can continue to live for months more. As a result, you find steelhead trout spawn more than salmon. (Read Fishing License CA Requirements)

What is the Difference Between Salmon and Rainbow Trout?

While many choices come down to how they are fished, there can be some salmon and trout better than others to eat. If you take what is trout vs. salmon is, salmon always comes on top as the favored fish to eat.

Here, you can find the USA’s common species and how people compare them to food. Both types are, however, classed as oily fish and contain lots of health benefits.

Rainbow Trout

Most trout on sale in North America will be Rainbow Trout. The pinkish meat has a mild and delicate flavor. You often find the size ideal for one fish and one person. Rainbow Trout tends not to taste “fishy.”

Steelhead Trout

This is the ocean-going version of Rainbow Trout, although they do taste different. Life in the ocean and a varied diet gives a Steelhead trout a fresh flavor, without the muddy taste of the Rainbow Trout. The meat is often darker and fattier and tend to be closer to that of the salmon.

Sockeye Salmon

Sockeye meat is redder in color than most salmon and is considered the tastiest of Pacific salmon. You find this as they are the most expensive. Sockeye fillets have the highest level of fat, thus giving more flavor. Also, cooking them doesn’t dry them out.

Chinook Salmon

Chinook is another premium fish that is a lot like sockeye for many people. The meat feels softer than other salmon and has a distinctly rich, buttery flavor. Fat levels are higher than sockeye, yet the meat isn’t as dark. Chinook is the biggest salmon, so if you need a lot, this is the one to fish for.

Atlantic Salmon

Wild Atlantic Salmon is delicious. For years, Atlantic salmon was overfished and can now be classed as endangered in the wild. Nowadays, most Atlantic Salmon are farmed. The fish is delicious and comes with a milder flavor while being less fatty than other salmon.

Other Species

Chars are oily and, in particular, lake water trout. Chum salmon is the one to avoid as it lacks much of the tastes other types of fish usually have.

Which is Better Salmon or Trout?

The most significant difference between salmon and brown trout is often found in the head and tail areas.

Man holding a salmon

Understanding this can help anglers release fish quicker should there be creel and restrictions applied where they are fishing.

Food-wise, they are very similar in what they offer.

  • Both salmon and trout contain high calories, potassium, and protein.
  • Salmon contains more pantothenic acid, although trout contains more folate.
  • Salmon contains a great source of Vitamin D.

If you are after the best for fishing, you can find both similar again, although a steelhead trout can give you a better fight because of the size. (Find the Best Fish Finders)

While you may struggle to understand the differences between the types of fish, you will find it is usually great to eat and fish for.

What is the Difference Between Trout and Salmon

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