This is the time of year when trout, as well as other cold water fish, put on their Barry White records, open a bottle of Courvoisier and get busy.
Brown trout and brook trout spawn in the fall and rainbow and cutthroats in the spring. Exact spawning times vary a bit from region to region and year to year but that’s the gist of it. Chubs, suckers, shiners, sculpins and other baitfish that make up an important part of the trouts diet are spawning all through the cooler months as well.
Trout lay their eggs in gravel. This gravel is key to the fry’s survival. They will find a spot where there is a consistent flow of well oxygenated water with a consistent depth of a foot or so, out of direct sun. The female will use her tail to clean the silt from a patch of gravel creating a redd where she will lay her eggs.
Fish do not hatch like birds or reptiles. They sort of pop out on top of the egg which stays attached to their belly and serves as a source of nutrition until the fry is big enough to forage for food. These sack fry are quite vulnerable. They hover over the redd and when predators approach they disappear into the gravel for protection.
Trout will generally move to the headwaters of streams to spawn but redds can be found anywhere the conditions are right. They appear as bright spots of clean gravel from one to three feet in diameter. Some are pronounced when surrounded by silt. In places where the gravel is clean they can be subtile depressions in the stream bed.
As anglers we must be aware of the presents of redds and wade with care. Stepping in redds can spoil eggs or crush sack fry hiding in the gravel and seriously effect trout reproduction. Even baitfish redds should be treated with caution as they are an important part of the food chain that trout depend on.
There is nothing more important to a fishery than the successful reproduction of wild fish. It’s worth taking your time, keeping your eyes open and treading carefully. If your lucky, you may even get to see a spawning pair getting about their business. Let them be. Their working for a better fishery.
The other day I was fishing in North Carolina when I spotted these Two Male Brook Trout fighting over a female. These are stocked fish and it is unlikely that they will spawn successfully but the instinct is there. Brook trout are notoriously competitive.