Cortisol is a key hormone in the fish stress response with a well-known ability to regulate several physiological functions, including energy metabolism and the immune system. However, data concerning cortisol effects on fish innate immune system using a more controlled increase in cortisol levels isolated from any other stress related signaling is scarce. The present study describes the effect of doses of cortisol corresponding to acute and chronic levels on the complement and lysozyme activity in plasma of the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). We also evaluated the effects of these cortisol levels (from intraperitoneally implanted hydrocortisone) on the mRNA levels quantified by RT-qPCR of selected key immune-related genes in the liver, head kidney, and spleen. For that purpose, 60 specimens of rainbow trout were divided in to two groups: a control group injected with a coconut oil implant and another group injected with the same implant and cortisol (50 g cortisol/g body weight). Our results demonstrate the role of cortisol as a modulator of the innate immune response without the direct contribution of other stress axes. Our results also show a relationship between the complement and lysozyme activity in plasma and mRNA levels in liver, supporting the important role of this organ in producing these immune system proteins after a rise of cortisol in the fish plasma. © 2013 R. Cortés et al.