11/05/11
Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1.    Blue-winged Olives
2.    Little Yellow Quills (
Heptagenia Group)
3.    Needle Stoneflies
4     Slate Drakes
5     Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
6.    Grasshoppers
7.    Ants
8.    Beetles
9  .  Craneflies
10.  Great Brown Autumn Sedge

Spawning Brown Trout
I thought it may be appropriate to write about spawning brown trout now that the
spawn is occurring in the streams of Great Smoky Mountains National park and most
of the other streams in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States.

Brown trout spawn when the water temperatures range between the mid forties and
high forties. Of course, this water temperature must exist at the right time of the year
which in our area is from the middle of October to the middle of December. The peak
of the spawn is usually around mid November but that is subject to weather and water
conditions. They will usually follow the brook trout mostly because the brook trout exist
at higher elevations but also for other reasons. The spawning time is also subject to
water levels and the amount of light available or sunlight penetration versus darkness.

Prior to spawning, both sexes increase their intake of food. This is for two reasons.
One is to provide the energy needed for the migration to their upstream spawning
areas and the other has to do with producing the eggs and sperm needed for the
spawn.

The female locates and chooses the area to spawn. They prefer to spawn on a gravel
bottom. Just in case you don't know, the spawning beds of trout and salmon are called
redds. That only has meaning in terms of the use of the word. It's not that redds differ
from what anglers call "beds" of other species of fish as such, although they usually
do vary. The depth of the water is important. It's normally from about 6 inches to 16
inches in depth. The depth is important because it affect light penetration and other
factors. Extreme high and low water levels can affect the spawn and the survival of the
eggs, sperm and hatching trout. In the Smokies, most of the redds are found in the
middle to tailends of pools but they can be found anywhere there's the right type of
bottom, depth current. I forgot to mention current. It too, is very important for the
success of the entire process. If the current is too fast or too slow, it can affect the
spawn. Somehow, the female knows what she's looking for but she can control these
things only up to a certain extent. Mother nature has more to do with it than she does.

The female builds the redd. This is unlike a bass, for example, whereas the male
builds the bed. She uses her swimming body motions and tail to for a depression in
the gravel. This also is done to get the sand and silt out of the gravel where the eggs
will be deposited.

While this is going on, one and maybe even several males will complete for the right
to spawn with the female. They will attempt to chase off their competition. If your
fishing out West you may be able to watch the exact same thing take place with male
elk and the male brown trout. We have watched this take place on the Madison River
several times. You will have bull elk fighting for a group of several females and male
brown trout fighting for, in this case, one female.

You will usually see the female swimming slowing in the redd with the male beside her
during the actual spawn. She releases her eggs and he releases his milt (sperm) in
the water to fertilize the eggs as they are released.  She will use her tail to gently
cover the eggs with gravel. This action is also thought to clean the gravel and help
allow the right amount of current flow through the gravel. There can be more than one
male participating during the actual spawn. She will usually release from between
4,000 to 14,000 eggs, depending on her size.

The current should flow through or into the gravel but ideally, it also should create a
barrier of sand and silt over the eggs and sperm. For all these reasons, it's easy to
see why so few eggs survive to hatch. When the ideal conditions can't be found, or
the weather and water conditions aren't right, they spawn wherever and however they
can.

Not many realize that she may not deposit all of her eggs in one redd. She may build
another one in the same general area and continue the process. Eggs can be
damaged by the gravel, lack of or too much current, sperm not reaching them and
other fish eating them. In tailwaters, and some freestone stream situations, water
levels can drop and expose the eggs, or the water can become real shallow and
freeze. Too much silt or sand can destroy them. Of course too much water, or flooding
situations can destroy everything. Fungus can destroy the eggs in some situations.
The survival and extent the eggs hatch is also directly affected by the water
temperature and sunlight.  
Anglers can wade through the redds and ruin the
redds and the eggs. Anglers can hurt the entire operation by catching the
females and/or the males.
I doubt that catching the male would destroy the spawn
but it could well effect the extent it was successful. They estimate that only about ten
percent of the eggs survive and that's under ideal conditions.

When I see any angler holding up a brown trout for a photo opportunity that was
caught from a redd during the spawn, and of course only they know for sure,
I see an
angler that's either completely ignorant of the spawning process, or one that
should be ashamed of him or herself. Those are pictures of phonies, not
sportsmen.
They should take up golf where they can write down whatever score they
choose to post on the handicap board of their country club.

The higher the water temperature, the faster the eggs develop. In the Smokies, they
usually hatch in late Winter or early Spring. It can be as early as February or as late
as early April. Everything must remain intact until the eggs hatch and the fry can get
out of the gravel and barrier above the redd to survive. There must be food available
for the fry. They much survive all the predators that want to eat them including other
fish. The mother and father or fathers are not around to help with this. In fact, if they
were, they would do just the opposite of protecting them.


Our New DVD Release "Stalking Appalachian Trout".

Copyright 2011 James Marsh