When visitors come to the Petersburg Hatchery, Tinney delights in telling them that the facility raises nothing but rainbow trout.
"They look at me like I'm crazy, and they ask what all those yellow fish are," he said, grinning. "But then when I show them a golden and they see its pink stripe, they recognize that it's a rainbow."
Partly to acknowledge the strain's true nature, and partly to avoid confusion with true golden trout, DNR officials now use the term "golden rainbow" in the agency's publications.
The town of Petersburg apparently hasn't received the memo. Signs emblazoned with the famous fish's likeness describe the Grant County seat as "The Home of the Golden Trout."
And indeed, the Petersburg Hatchery remains the sole source of every golden rainbow stocked by the DNR.
"All of them originate here," Tinney said. "We provide eggs to the Bowden Hatchery, but all of the eggs are stripped from the brood fish and fertilized here in Petersburg. We hatch about 80,000 eggs each year, and Bowden hatches between 20,000 and 30,000."
Although the DNR has a policy not to export golden rainbows outside the state's borders, fisheries agencies in several states now stock the strain, or variations on it.
"Back in the '60s, someone sent some of our fish to Pennsylvania," said Mike Shingleton, the DNR's assistant chief in charge of trout fisheries. "They did some selective breeding of their own and created what they call the 'palomino trout.' A lot of states now have golden rainbows or palominos in their hatcheries."
The fish's striking appearance has made it a coveted prize for many anglers - and an accursed pest to others.
"Two types of people fish for goldens," Tinney said. "Those that love 'em, or those that hate 'em. Some fishermen get frustrated by them, because they don't seem to bite as eagerly as regular rainbows. Other fishermen call them 'tracer trout,' and fish around them for the regular rainbows that are usually nearby."
That reluctance to bite, Tinney added, is part what makes goldens a highly valued catch.
"I've only ever met one person who said he caught a [six-fish] limit of goldens in a single day," he said. "What really amazes me is that some people say they've fished for years and have never caught a golden."
The Petersburg Hatchery's history with the golden rainbow has made it a bit of a destination spot for tourists. Tinney said visitors routinely show up to get a glimpse of the facility's famous fish.
"We even get visitors from other counties," he said. "About four years ago, the governor had a big tourism push, and they brought people from Australia, England, Germany and other countries to tour West Virginia. This is one of the stops they made. They were amazed at how goldens were so different from rainbows."
Anglers have celebrated the difference for 50 years, and Tinney said they'll continue to celebrate it for the foreseeable future.
"The [DNR] is committed to stocking goldens," he said. "People expect us to stock them, and we do. Sportsmen pay for [trout hatcheries and trout stockings], and we do our best to give them a good day of fishing."
Reach John McCoy at johnmc...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1231.