Does a Stocked Trout Ever Become Wild?

ed from bama

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Good evening to all-

I would not pretend to be an expert on American trout genetics nor even trout natural distribution. However, I've fished for trout in a lot of places in a lot of different ways, and I've found the range of trout behavior and growth is a fantastically wide scope.
I tend to see "wild" trout in terms of their behavior.
For instance...
Many years ago in the Ozarks of north Arkansas- totally non-trout waters before stocking- a huge spring which started beside a busy highway fed cold, oxygen-rich water into a small limestone creek which ran several miles to join with the White River. A non-native "Yankee" person with money and a misguided vision bought the spring and headwaters and stocked it with rainbow trout for the tourists to catch and pay a great deal for. Worked just fine until... a major flood came along, and all of the stocked trout washed out of the spring and downstream. Let me assure you, locals, including me, had a ball fishing for those escaped rainbows that spring when the water in the creek went down. We ate a lot of nice trout that summer.
But within a few months, the "stocked" rainbows were much harder to catch, and they located the places in the creek where springs fed in and kept the water liveable for the trout. And as the summer went on, these trout got harder and harder to catch. They got very aware of the world around them, and any sloppy movement or noise put them down. In other words, they acted like "wild" trout.
And they became "wild" or they became supper, and they did it in a matter of months.
So, according to my definition of "wild," some trout can transform from hatchery inmates to functioning wild trout in a really short period of time.
I hope my input doesn't cloud the issue.

good night to all- Ed
 

silver creek

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Ed,

I think what you are describing is that those rainbows acted "wilder" but that does not mean the ARE wild. A wild trout is genetically different than a trout from a hatchery. Wild fish have a slower metabolic rate which means the it's biochemistry is different from a hatchery fish and that is just one example of how they differ. That is because hatchery fish are fed regularly and have adapted to become fast growers.

Food is scarcer in the wild and so the biochemistry of wild fish, their behavior and their epigenetics (the way their DNA is manifested) is adapted to the conditions of the stream.

Now if those released hatchery trout survive over several seasons, their biochemistry and epigenetics revert to more of a native form and then not only their behavior but their biochemistry reverts back toward the native state. They have to or they will perish.

What I am saying is that you may have observed some behavior by these hatchery raised fish that you interpret as "wild" but there is "behavior" of the biochemical and enzyme pathways of those trout that have not adapted and change so they are not "wild" by a biologist's definition. Infact, if one of those fish survive for several years and it was caught and if a biologist took a scale sample, he could tell it was a hatchery trout. How? Because the first growth rings on the scale sample would show the fast growth of a hatchery fish as sure as if the fish had been fin clipped. This is just one way the biological history of that trout can be determined.
 
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WildTroutDFO

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Although Montana trout streams are presently not stocked, there are first generation hatchery stockers in some tailwater rivers. For example, there are many hatchery fish in the Missouri. Fish stocked in the resrvoir above Holter Dam often wash over the top of the dam during high flows in the spring. These fish soon adapt to the river environemnt and will rise to duns, just like the wild, non native Rainbows born in the river. These fish are a big trophy sized sterile triploid strain. They are easily identified by deformed and/or missing fins. However, to the unknowlegeable angler they are assumed to be the same as any other Missouri Bow. Then they unknowingly go into their own record book as their personal best wild rainbow. Part of being a knowledgeable trout angler is having an understanding of the fish and their habitat.
This one was cruising a little eddy and sipping mayfly spinners and caddis off the surface around 8:30 Monday evening. I made a decent cast, she slurped the CDC spent caddis, and she made a big show with one giant leap and a long steady fast downstream run deep into the backing, me trotting and stumbling downstream after her. I could tell when she was feeding that she was of some size, and she showed herself with her leap, and I could feel her weight, and three gentlemen standing on the far bank across the river on the dirt road side were watching, and I had made a nice presentation, so I was feeling fine. She fought a noble battle and my heart sank when she made the net, with her flat dorsal fin and banged up tail and strange squared-off face. It's not the same as fooling a wild. She went around 22" and garnered a woop and "nice job" from the three gentlemen on the far bank across the river, and she was a warrior, so I took the picture. (You can probably tell she is submerged in the photo and how much water they've recently released from the dam, with the fresh green grass now under water.) I try not to fish this spot unless I can't find fish rising in other parts of the river, as I often catch these here. It's just not the same.

IMG_0715.jpg
 

sweetandsalt

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Yes, most of us who fish not too far below the dam have caught these domestic Eagle Lake strain rainbows. But you had a great tussle on your beautiful rod and reel. I mis not being there this season.

Ed, welcome to the Forum. I do not mean this critically but your experience with these hatchery derived rainbows is from a human perspective. "Wild" is a biological not behavioral nor perception based. As discussed earlier in the fine thread, near all our rainbows across this great country derive originally form hatchery plantings. Some manage to adapt and thrive spawning the next spring and their subsequent progeny become wild though, of course, never, ever native.
 

ed from bama

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Good afternoon to all-
Well, I suppose I am limited in my perspective- human. In my eyes, if it acts wild and lives wild, then it's wild. So very much of our north American trout fisheries are basically transplanted fish, the discussion of wild vs. native really doesn't matter a lot.
I love to fish for these wonderful fish even though they never ever came naturally within a thousand miles of where I live.
Perhaps transplanting fish or any other animal to un-natural ecosystems is indefensible, but, Lord, I am so glad that I can drive just a few hundred miles and fish for something as nice a rainbow trout.

good day to all- Ed
 

sweetandsalt

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Ed, The dialog about Domestic, Wild and Native Trout is from a wildlife naturalist perspective not a sporting one. We are all thrilled to enjoy the diverse opportunities to fish for trout in America. This is a non-native animal transplant that went mostly right. My home river includes good wild populations of both Browns from Europe and Rainbows from California and I, a Euro-American transplanted here four generations ago, am thrilled to co-exist with them.
 

silver creek

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Good afternoon to all-
Well, I suppose I am limited in my perspective- human. In my eyes, if it acts wild and lives wild, then it's wild. So very much of our north American trout fisheries are basically transplanted fish, the discussion of wild vs. native really doesn't matter a lot.
I love to fish for these wonderful fish even though they never ever came naturally within a thousand miles of where I live.
Perhaps transplanting fish or any other animal to un-natural ecosystems is indefensible, but, Lord, I am so glad that I can drive just a few hundred miles and fish for something as nice a rainbow trout.

good day to all- Ed
Ed,

"Wild" is a scientific and biological definition. Definitions have criteria and to be called wild means that the organism meets that definition:


Definition of wild

b(1): growing or produced without human aid or care

Furthermore, through genetic analysis and specifically epigenetic analysis, biologists are able to determine whether a trout is wild or has the genetic markers for a hatchery raised fish and they can even determine if the parent or grandparents of the fish were raised in a hatchery.

Epigenetics is how the DNA of the organism is activated and interpreted. As scientists have learned more about the DNA controls the organism. it has become apparent that organism with IDENTICAL DNA, for example twins, exhibit differences in how their identical dna is activate and interpreted and this results in differences in metabolism and behavior.

Perhaps you remember the Kelly brothers, identical twin astronauts, one of whom spent 340 days in space. This change in environment for Scott Kelly changed 7% of his DNA, or more properly stated, how 7% of his DNA is interpreted and manifested. This change was caused by epigenetics


Here is another article on human epigenetics.

https://www.livescience.com/37135-dna-epigenetics-disease-research.html

This same process of epigenetic change differentiates wild from hatchery trout.

we measured differential gene expression in the offspring of wild and first-generation hatchery steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) reared in a common environment. Remarkably, we find that there were 723 genes differentially expressed between the two groups of offspring.


You can read more about it in this thread:

https://www.theflyfishingforum.com/...pigenetics-complex-science-2.html#post1047017

The implication of epigenetics is that even if the rainbow trout that were released from a hatchery were able to breed in the wild, their offspring would not be truly "wild" epigenetically because they would still display the epigenetic behaviours and metabolism plus other traits of their hatchery parents. This is why steelheaders in the northwest are against hatchery steelhead. The hatchery steelhead dilute the truly native wild strain strain and crossbreed with the native fish and pass the domesticated epigenetic DNA and behaviors onto their progeny.
 

ed from bama

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Good afternoon to all-

I appreciate your information and I profit from the education.

I suppose it comes from my having grown up in a place where all of the trout were hatchery fish- no possible native or wild fish. I find it hard to see the tailrace trout of my homewaters- rainbows, browns, whatever- as anything but wonderful fish- despite their genetic backgrounds.
And perhaps that's a reason I have come to value saltwater fly fishing so much. There's not much possibility of human intervention with the production of saltwater fish- if they can live in a particular location, they'll already be there.

I am enjoying this forum very much already.

Good evening to all- Ed
 

flav

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Here's my experiences from the last couple trips to the river, and I think it shows a big difference between wild and hatchery fish. My local river, the McKenzie, has both native cutthroat and rainbows. Most of the river is wild fish only, but a stretch has planted rainbows put in by the local guide association (don't get me started on that horrible situation), in addition to wild fish, mostly rainbows.
I floated this stretch a few times in the last few weeks. The mayflies hatches lasted all day on rainy days and dry fly fishing was spectacular. By the 3rd trip down the river I could almost call what type of fish, wild or hatchery, was holding where. The small wild fish held in the fast, shallow riffles. The bigger wild fish held on the deep seams close to the main current. The hatchery fish almost exclusively held in the slower flows below the riffles. I could often tell the fish apart by how they rose as well. The wild fish seldom missed my fly, rising quickly and hardly showing you more than a bit of a nose or a flash of a pink stripe. The hatchery fish often came almost completely out of the water on the rise, showing me their whole head and back, often missing the fly.
I caught quite a few hatchery fish that had clearly been in the river a while as well. They still didn't look like the wild fish, but they looked better than the pastey colored more recently stocked fish. None of the hatchery fish were anything like the wild ones in the fight department, though, even ones that clearly had been in the river a while. An 8 inch wild fish would easily out jump, run, and pull a 12 inch hatchery fish.
These are just my observations, but I have the opportunity to fish for wild fish most of the time and I have seen this difference between wild and planted fish for a long time.
 
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