to the artice:
foot of the Rainbow
By Jurij Shumakov
I got interested in
the history of the discovery of the Mykizha (Rainbow trout) and Semga
(Steelhead), while reading a book “Shrimp and Spey flies for Salmon
and Steelhead” a couple of years ago. The information provided was
sketchy, and I felt parts of the story had been left untold. The
author had, let's say, simplified a bit the question of natural
habitat of the fish and its name history, which are both quite
interesting. In order to solve this "enigma", I tried to
find more info, so after rather long and complicated research on this
subject (but I will spare you the details!) this is what found:
Mykizha was described
for the first time in history by Russian explorer Stepan
Krasheninnikov on the Kamchatka Peninsula in 1755. Kamchatka's native
inhabitants called this fish "Mykiz" or "Kymiz".
The scientific name
of the fish, Salmo mykiss, was first proposed by Russian scientist
Walboum in 1792. This was based on the results of the Great Northern
Expedition of Russian ships under the command of Danish Vitaus Bering,
who served the Russian crown at that time.
On the American
continent, Lewis and Clarke described a species of fish which was new
for them, and which they called “Rainbow trout”.
In 1814, the sea-run
form of Mykizha was described for the first time on the Kamchatka
Peninsula and called “Semga”. Since scientists at that time
thought that it was a new species, it was given the Latin name Salmo
penshinensis. In 1836, the Americans described the sea-run form of
Rainbow, which got the name “Steelhead”.
In 1855, Steelhead
was named according to the scientific rules of the period and got the
Latin name Salmo irideus.
Until the middle of
the XX century, all four names circulated in scientific and fishing
literature. By that time, a lot of biological facts had been collected
on both coasts of the Pacific, and it was high time to revise the old
In 1966, almost
simultaneously, Russian and American scientists came to the conclusion
that Mykizha and Semga in the Russian Far East, as well as Rainbow
trout and Steelhead on the North American continent are actually the
same species. Since scientists independently came to the same
conclusion, and according to taxonomic demands any species must get
its first name, the fish was then named in Latin Salmo mykiss.
So in this case the
names Mykizha, Rainbow trout, Semga and Steelhead are all synonymous
to the scientific name of the species, Salmo mykiss.
But the story with
the names of this fish wasn't over. Just as we thought things were
getting easier, they started to get more complicated.
In 1989, American
scientists decided that Salmo mykiss, as well as Clark's Salmon,
Mexican Golden trout and Appaches trout are all closer by biological
marks to the family of Pacific salmon named Oncohynchus. While Russian
scientists, on the other hand, are of the opinion that the mentioned
species are quite specific but closer to the Salmo family, and
therefore proposed to set the whole group as a separate race
So, to make a long
story short, that's why the fish has received two quite different
scientific names: in Russia it is known as Parasalmo mykiss, whereas
in the US it is called Oncohynchus mykiss.
The area, which the
fish inhabits, is quite big. In Asia Mikizha occupy an area on the
Russian Kamchatka Peninsula from the Arctic Circle (about the line
between the West coast river Palana and East coast river Ozernaja) to
the Southern Horn of the Peninsula. A small natural population of the
fish can be found off the Shantar islands.
On the North American
continent the fish has a huge natural area reaching from about the
Arctic river Kuskokvim, South of the biggest Alaskan river Ukon. The
southern border of the Rainbow trout’s natural area is the brook
Malibu, close to Los Angeles.
Special thanks to
Russian specialist in Pacific Salmon species, docent of the Biological
Dept. of the Moscow States University Kirill Kuzishin, Ph.D., who
recently published the article about Kamchtka’s Mykizha and Semga in
Russian fly fishing magazine “Nahlyst”. Parts of the article were
used in the reference.
I am very thankful
to Swedish-American linguist Helen Avery who helped me to bring whole
article to a readable shape.
Read the article:
foot of the Rainbow
By Jurij Shumakov
Text and photos by
Jurij Shumakov © 2005