Fishing Mindfully: The Rainbow Trout Spawn

Cian McGillicuddyFly FishingLeave a Comment

Spring is here in Aspen, and the fishing has been fantastic! Spring is an amazing time of the year to chase trout on the Roaring Fork river. As the water warms, insects begin to hatch in greater numbers and the fishing heats up. However, fishing at this time of year requires a little extra attention – because spring is when the rainbow trout are spawning.

Spawning Rainbow Trout

Trout create spawning beds or “Redds,” which are generally found in shallow, moving water. Identifying these redds is an important skill as an angler and helps us fish ethically. Redds are generally composed of smaller rocks and gravel that are lighter in color than the rest of the river bottom due to spawning fish brushing the rocks as they mate and clearing them of algae and other organic material. These beds provide safety for the eggs and alveins (fry) that are a result of the spawn and the next generation of fish!

Spawning bed or “Redd”
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Taking note of these spawning beds is important for two reasons. The first is that anglers should avoid wading through them. Walking on the redds can damage them and make them unsuitable for spawning and can even kill eggs and alveins. Help out our future generations of trout and don’t tread on the redd! 

In addition to steering clear of the spawning beds while wading in the river, don’t fish to actively spawning rainbows while they are on their beds. Hooking spawning fish disrupts their ability to effectively breed and produce more rainbow trout in the future. Spawning fish exert a considerable amount of energy while spawning, so hooking and fighting them can deplete them of energy that they would have otherwise used to spawn and even lead to fish mortality over time. (Large rainbows in our river have the ability to create thousands of offspring so they are an incredibly valuable resource for the future of our fishery.)

Spring is time for trout Love!
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Secondly, catching fish off of redds just isn’t an ethical way to fish. For one, trout are very protective of their beds and will often take a fly out of aggression in order to protect their beds rather than exhibiting normal feeding behavior. It might be tempting to wet a line when you see big fish in shallow water, but it takes the fun out of reading water, getting a good drift and connecting with actively feeding fish elsewhere in the river. Believe us when we tell you that there are plenty of those too!

We encourage you to be mindful of the resource, but are in no way discouraging anyone from fishing this time of year. In fact, this is one of the best times to be out there on the water! Water temperatures are rising, the trout are happy and we’ve got some great insect life! The main food sources for trout right now are midges, baeits, stoneflies and the caddis are starting soon. The fish can sense runoff around the corner and will take advantage of any extra protein they can get, so don’t be afraid to try some streamers!

Written by Cian McGillicuddy, Last 2 photos by Anna Stonehouse

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