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How long is your rainbow?

I’m new to the Rogue Valley, and as a retiree planning to rediscover fishing once the rain and snow stop, I am happy to see the Mail Tribune publishes a rather extensive fishing report each week. A bit heavy on the jargon sometimes for us almost newbies. My question, though, is how big are the trout in the various categories. I know all fishermen lie, but can you tell me what a “legal” is?

— John F., email submission

Calling out the collective honesty of the not-so-crack Since You Asked staff might not be the brightest way to entice us to find answers to your questions, John.

Just because SYA lifers like to wet a line does not make us suspect in the how-big-is-your-fish genre — well, most of the time.

Knowing you don’t trust us, we went right to the source — Dave Pease, the manager of Cole Rivers Hatchery, where the vast majority of stocked Rogue Valley rainbow trout are reared.

“Legals” carry that moniker because they are released at a minimum of 8 inches long, which is the minimum size of trout that can be legally kept in Oregon, Pease says. Hence the term “legals.”

But not all legals are equal, Pease says. The fish are raised and released based on poundage, with legals being about three fish to the pound, and those can run anywhere from 8 inches to 11 inches, depending upon growth rates, he says.

The next standard category, which you will see a lot of once lake stocking gets rolling, is something called “larger” trout, Pease says. Those are about a pound apiece and usually about 13 inches long, he says.

The “trophy” class of stocked rainbow trout are about 15 inches long, and their average weight is just 0.2 pounds larger, he says.

And, of course, there are what we at SYA Central call the “illegals,” or trout stocked smaller than the 8-inch minimum length. Those are typically called “fingerlings,” with the majority of them stocked at about 3 inches long.

Fingerlings are stocked in places such as Diamond Lake in the spring to take advantage of the good food sources there to grow to legal length by the end of summer. They are cheaper to raise because they stay in the concrete ponds for shorter periods.

Fingerlings stocked in the fall at places such as Howard Prairie Reservoir are about 5 inches long, Pease says. The fall fingerlings are larger to give them a better chance of escaping illegally stocked bass there that prey on the small trout during warmer water months.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.