How to recognize trout spawning beds or areas

garrettnelson

Member
Messages
6
Reaction score
0
Hi there,

I was planning on going fishing this Friday but I was told that the brown trout might be spawning and to be careful not fish or wade in the "beds?". Can anyone explain how to recognize these spawning areas? I really want to fish but I don't want to do any harm while they're spawning. Thanks in advance!
Garrett
 

dillon

Well-known member
Messages
2,122
Reaction score
513
Location
Portland and Maupin, Oregon
Hi there,

I was planning on going fishing this Friday but I was told that the brown trout might be spawning and to be careful not fish or wade in the "beds?". Can anyone explain how to recognize these spawning areas? I really want to fish but I don't want to do any harm while they're spawning. Thanks in advance!
Garrett
Spawning beds are usually in highly oxygenated riffle water. The gravel in the beds is usually an oval shape several feet long and lighter than the surrounding area as the fish are digging redds, thus cleaning the stones. You can stay on the bank to avoid walking on redds and fish dry flies as spawners are less likely to rise. Even if there is not a hatch, attractor patterns should work just fine.

Browns might run up feeder creeks to spawnn or higher in the main river. So, avoiding small streams and staying lower on a river might also help avoid spawning fish.
 

garrettnelson

Member
Messages
6
Reaction score
0
Spawning beds are usually in highly oxygenated riffle water. The gravel in the beds is usually an oval shape several feet long and lighter than the surrounding area as the fish are digging redds, thus cleaning the stones. You can stay on the bank to avoid walking on redds and fish dry flies as spawners are less likely to rise. Even if there is not a hatch, attractor patterns should work just fine.

Browns might run up feeder creeks to spawnn or higher in the main river. So, avoiding small streams and staying lower on a river might also help avoid spawning fish.
This is awesome information, thank you so much!
 

Ard

Administrator
Staff member
Messages
20,837
Reaction score
2,890
Location
Wasilla / Skwentna, Alaska
Hello Garret,

More often than not the fish will set up camp at the tail water of a decent run or pool and or at the very head where there are good current speeds and the right size gravel for the nest to be built. Generally the gravel covering these areas will be of uniform coloration due to sediment - algae - UV radiation or a host of other causes. When the female trout begins clearing the gravel and excavating a shallow depression all of this gravel gets rearranged and this digging and flogging the trout does causes the gravel to appear a different color than the surrounding substrate.

Once this nest building has commenced the female is also releasing pheromones (I believe) into the currents that signal her readiness to engage in procreation. This scent as well as the act of clearing out a 'redd' area signals male fish to converge on the nest site. Within a bunch of male trout there will be various age and size groups present. Unfortunately once they congregate they are easy for an angler to spot and if so disposed to fish at them.

Human nature being what it is (in many cases) the anglers will target the largest of the male suitors and in some cases injure the largest and presumably the dominate of the males. This dominate male is the fish most desirable for the act of fertilizing the eggs in order for the transfer of such genes as it may possess to be continued in the line.

Some believe there is no harm done by catching these male fish and then engaging in photography to document the occasion. I would differ with that train of thought based on many years of observation of fall fish such as Brown Trout - Brook Trout and Dolly Varden Char, in some cases the act of 'catching' the dominate male will allow for smaller 'subordinate' males to instantly take up his previous position at the hen's side. If the dominate male is sufficiently shocked and tired by the 'catching and various ceremonies' the angler has engaged in this will allow for a less desirable male to actually do the fertilization process. That is, if at that moment in time the hen is ready to disperse the eggs. They (the males) are constantly battling over this age old right to spawn, not unlike deer, turkey's and almost every member of the animal kingdom I could mention. The dominate male is kept busy pursuing the interlopers away from 'his' hen and they are under a high level of stress from this activity alone.

In the worst case scenario an angler will drift his nymph or streamer directly through the spawning bed and this can result in the hen attacking the intruder. That's what is happening in such a case, an attack made to protect the sanctity of the bed room. Years ago a member posted a photo of a rather large hen, it was the grip and grin variety of photo. What followed was a bit of a beat down from the veteran anglers. The 'beat down' occurred because the female brown trout in the picture was in fact spewing out its precious eggs while the fellow was hoisting it aloft for the memories.........

You are doing right to ask this question because there are some folks who have been around this long enough that they are non-pulsed by a late October / early November shot of a huge hook jawed brown taken on a small creek or shallow river.

What I can tell you in a positive light is that after the actual spawning is completed those males don't instantly run back to where ever they came from. They tend to slowly drop back down stream many times lingering just downstream of the beds where they gathered for the competition. I have found many of these fish as late as February still within a quarter mile of the prime spawning gravel beds. The fall spawn brings out fish seldom seen by the casual angler. Some travel great distances from down stream once the scent of ripe females is in the water. They come from their undercut banks, the eroded tree stump root systems, the huge flat rock at mid channel where they have lived their lives for years only to come out at night, this is why so many people cannot resist the siren song of the spawning beds. The one chance to catch a true bragging fish.

Do I begrudge a person the chance to catch that giant fish? The answer is how they say, complicated, if it was taken sight fishing at the very most vulnerable stage of its life I see no honest glory in that. If it is taken after the active spawning is finished and before they have officially returned to their lairs for another eleven months then I appreciate the perseverance and assumed knowledge applied by the fly fisherman.

And that's my short answer :)
 
Last edited:

garrettnelson

Member
Messages
6
Reaction score
0
Hello Garret,

More often than not the fish will set up camp at the tail water of a decent run or pool and or at the very head where there are good current speeds and the right size gravel for the nest to be built. Generally the gravel covering these areas will be of uniform coloration due to sediment - algae - UV radiation or a host of other causes. When the female trout begins clearing the gravel and excavating a shallow depression all of this gravel gets rearranged and this digging and flogging the trout does causes the gravel to appear a different color than the surrounding substrate.

Once this nest building has commenced the female is also releasing pheromones (I believe) into the currents that signal her readiness to engage in procreation. This scent as well as the act of clearing out a 'redd' area signals male fish to converge on the nest site. Within a bunch of male trout there will be various age and size groups present. Unfortunately once they congregate they are easy for an angler to spot and if so disposed to fish at them.

Human nature being what it is (in many cases) the anglers will target the largest of the male suitors and in some cases injure the largest and presumably the dominate of the males. This dominate male is the fish most desirable for the act of fertilizing the eggs in order for the transfer of such genes as it may possess to be continued in the line.

Some believe there is no harm done by catching these male fish and then engaging in photography to document the occasion. I would differ with that train of thought based on many years of observation of fall fish such as Brown Trout - Brook Trout and Dolly Varden Char, in some cases the act of 'catching' the dominate male will allow for smaller 'subordinate' males to instantly take up his previous position at the hen's side. If the dominate male is sufficiently shocked and tired by the 'catching and various ceremonies' the angler has engaged in this will allow for a less desirable male to actually do the fertilization process. They are constantly battling over this age old right to spawn not unlike deer, turkey's and almost every member of the animal kingdom I could mention. The dominate male is kept bust pursuing the interlopers away from 'his' hen and they are under a high level of stress from this activity alone.

In the worst case scenario an angler will drift his nymph or streamer directly through the spawning bed and this can result in the hen attacking the intruder. That's what is happening in such a case, an attack made to protect the sanctity of the bed room. Years ago a member posted a photo of a rather large hen, it was the grip and grin variety of photo. What followed was a bit of a beat down from the veteran anglers. The 'beat down' occurred because the female brown trout in the picture was in fact spewing out its precious eggs while the fellow was hoisting it aloft for the memories.........

You are doing right to ask this question because there are some folks who have been around this long enough that they are non-pulsed by a late October / early November shot of a huge hook jawed brown taken on a small creek or shallow river.

What I can tell you in a positive light is that after the actual spawning is completed those males don't instantly run back to where ever they came from. They tend to slowly drop back down stream many times lingering just downstream of the beds where they gathered for the competition. I have found many of these fish as late as February still within a quarter mile of the prime spawning gravel beds. The fall spawn brings out fish seldom seen by the casual angler. Some travel great distances from down stream once the scent of ripe females is in the water. They come from their undercut banks, the eroded tree stump root systems, the huge flat rock at mid channel where they have lived their lives for years only to come out at night, this is why so many people cannot resist the siren song of the spawning beds. The one chance to catch a true bragging fish.

Do I begrudge a person the chance to catch that giant fish? The answer is how they say, complicated, if it was taken sight fishing at the very most vulnerable stage of its life I see no honest glory in that. If it is taken after the active spawning is finished and before they have officially returned to their lairs for another eleven months then I appreciate the perseverance and assumed knowledge applied by the fly fisherman.

And that's my short answer :)
Ard,

Thank you so much for this great information. Would you advise against fishing this time of year in general, or is it ok to fish the deeper parts of the river that aren't in the redds? Please excuse my ignorance, so much to learn here and I want to make sure I'm doing everything I can to be respectful to the fish and not harm them in any way! Thank you again for that write-up, I really learned a lot!

Garrett
 

Ard

Administrator
Staff member
Messages
20,837
Reaction score
2,890
Location
Wasilla / Skwentna, Alaska
Ard,

Thank you so much for this great information. Would you advise against fishing this time of year in general, or is it ok to fish the deeper parts of the river that aren't in the redds? Please excuse my ignorance, so much to learn here and I want to make sure I'm doing everything I can to be respectful to the fish and not harm them in any way! Thank you again for that write-up, I really learned a lot!

Garrett
Heck yeah, go fishing :) Once you know what you're seeing if you happen into some spawning fish take a seat and you will soon see some of the things I have described. Incidentally, I edited my post to correct several typos as I was working as quickly as I could to pound out a reply that I erred several times :eek:

Much of what I think I know came along by way of simple observations made over the years. One can actually reach a point where you may get as much enjoyment from watching nature at work as you would by fishing. I was fortunate in that I discovered (quite by accident) that one learns a lot by watching and listening at times.

Dillon gave good advice with the dry fly suggestion. I remember one year ........ Maybe 1987, that famous little river that runs down through Deckers Colorado. It was November and the browns were at it, I cast a #18 Blue Winged Olive over them for hours. It was a terrific thrill just seeing the bulge in the water every time one of them chased my fly away from the beds. Eventually I climbed into the boulders and just watched them to see what was really going on. They were no different than the Pennsylvania fish in the spring creeks or the freestone runs not that I thought they should be but there were a lot of real bruisers there.

I didn't catch any of the big guys but had confidence that it could easily be done with a change in position and a streamer. I had been schooled about pounding spawning beds by an old guy in PA. named Charlie Fox, when we met and he held court about spawning beds I hadn't a clue who he was other than his name. He was an old man and I was a kid wanting to pull one of those giants from his spring creek. He's the fellow who suggested I watch more and fish less ;)
 

mcnerney

Administrator
Messages
20,763
Reaction score
234
Location
Pinedale, WY
smcnearn posted this photo of a spawning bed a few days ago, this is what you want to avoid:


This reminds me of a guy from Utah that Rod and I ran into while fishing the Green last week. I had gone up and helped him release a very nice brown trout, and he made the comment that he was sight fishing for them, then proceeded to show me about 15 photos, all browns, that he had been picking off the spawning beds. I didn't want to start a controversy so I just walked away and held my tongue, but felt very disgusted.
 

cab

Well-known member
Messages
1,618
Reaction score
22
Location
Colorado Springs, CO
This is also when the big 'bows come out. They're after those eggs, so Indy nymphing an egg pattern can work well.

HTH,
CAB
 
S

smcnearn

Guest
smcnearn posted this photo of a spawning bed a few days ago, this is what you want to avoid:





This reminds me of a guy from Utah that Rod and I ran into while fishing the Green last week. I had gone up and helped him release a very nice brown trout, and he made the comment that he was sight fishing for them, then proceeded to show me about 15 photos, all browns, that he had been picking off the spawning beds. I didn't want to start a controversy so I just walked away and held my tongue, but felt very disgusted.


Yea, yanking them off reds is pretty lame. Especially browns.


Brown and Whitefish reds in the outlets of notellum pond #2.



Circled in red are the reds. A 10ft x 20ft cleared area! Circled in yellow (and dark in the water) are several hundred brown trout. (As seen from about 15ft above) Reds can be the size of a saucer or as big as the ones below dug in an almost communal way. With marble size gravel to larger than fist sized cobble.




Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

dillon

Well-known member
Messages
2,122
Reaction score
513
Location
Portland and Maupin, Oregon
I neglected to mention that as with rainbows ( that spawn in the spring) all browns in the river may not be spawning. The non spawners and the rainbows will respond to dries more readily, thus avoiding the spawning browns.
 
S

smcnearn

Guest
I neglected to mention that as with rainbows ( that spawn in the spring) all browns in the river may not be spawning. The non spawners and the rainbows will respond to dries more readily, thus avoiding the spawning browns.


I’m more of a next pool down from the spawners with beads kind of guy ;)


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

wjlapier

Well-known member
Messages
375
Reaction score
81
Location
PNW--College Place, WA.
I guess I better be looking down and paying more attention more often. I knew nothing about the way the beds look, so hopefully I didn't disturb any. I don't see big fish like some of you do, but there are Bull trout and Steelhead in the river I frequent.

Great information.
 

Ard

Administrator
Staff member
Messages
20,837
Reaction score
2,890
Location
Wasilla / Skwentna, Alaska
I guess I better be looking down and paying more attention more often. I knew nothing about the way the beds look, so hopefully I didn't disturb any. I don't see big fish like some of you do, but there are Bull trout and Steelhead in the river I frequent.

Great information.
Long ago there was a mile long section of Pennsylvania's famous Spring Creek that was closed to wading. That meant No Wading, and the reason was simple. The department of fisheries had identified that one mile as the most important spawning area on the upper reaches of Spring Creek. The No Wading rule is why I learned (unknowingly) to Spey cast. That stretch was the only area of this famous creek where I could spend a morning or an entire day without having anyone else fishing nearby. The obvious reason was that it was nearly impossible to cast a fly line using traditional over head techniques. A roll cast fell short for many areas also but the Improved or high energy multi step roll cast which is how I think of a Spey cast made it possible for me to reach even the widest parts all the way to hidden lairs on the other side of the flow.

It was there on that creek that I became a watcher of fish, especially fall browns in the spawning processes. Dressed in my drab old Filson jacket or even a Camo jacket I spent countless hours sitting stashed away in the small bushes and behind the trunks of larger trees watching the course of nature in action. There were a few occasions when people who had failed to read the prominently displayed posters would come walking up the dirt road that paralleled the stream leading up to land owned by the State of Pennsylvania department of corrections. Only a few ever ventured down over the bank to try plying the water and they always left within getting their second back cast hung up in a tree......... There was however one group of three that I had an interaction with. These three came up the old road and then began looking for a good place to cross the stream. They definitely fit the 'I didn't see the signs lot' and as I sat and watch they picked the tailout of a run just upstream. As they say in this century, My Bad, because I had ample time to hail them and make them aware of my presence and of the ruls set forth for that stream. I hesitated, muttering under my breath but not wanting to be confrontational at the same time. I knnew they were about to trek right into a large spawning bed but until the lead man was right on top of it I remained silent.

I don't know what came over me but I decided to break my silence and stood up. With a loud but I hope not too threatening voice I called to them, "Yo, hey there" Yo was big back in the 90's I guess but that's how I opened the exchange, Yo. They stopped obviously startled to hear a voice and I stepped to the waters edge. With the trio looking my way I called out again, "This is a No Wading area, you cannot wade here. Furthermore you are standing in a spawning bed and may be destroying the eggs". The three stood still with the eldest being the point man. He certainly appeared old enough (older than me) to know better and the entire group, possible three generations of a family were all decked out pretty well with gear and tackle but when the lead man replied he said........... "Really, I didn't know that". I answered to the effect, didn't know about the wading rules or the spawning trout? He told me, 'Neither".

They went back to shore had a quiet conference and then came downstream to stand across from where I was. This was good so I didn't have to raise my voice to an unsocial lever. The older fellow thanked me and ask, "So the fish are spawning now?" I gave him and the young men the 2 minute version of what was happening and where it would likely be found, closing by cautioning them that fishing the beds was in the most poor taste.

They climbed back up the bank and I never saw them again as far as I know. In hindsight I should have been proactive. I knew while I was still in the muttering under my breath stage that they were going to walk right smack dab into those nests but I hesitated. So when this topic was posted I decided not to hesitate, to try suggesting that there's a good way and then there's the other to deal with trout doing what they do especially if we value Wild Fish.

Sadly I have learned that in this new age fishermen put such pressure on the Pennsylvania Fish Communion over that one mile of Spring Creek that they rescinded a regulation that had been in effect since I first fished that place in the 1970's. I don't lay awake at night fretting for the fish, the descendants by several generations of those I spent days of my life watching as they did the age old rites of nature but it's sad. Sad to think of people well attired with gear and tackle perhaps blundering through the nests. Even worse is the thought of some discovering or being told of the treasure trove of big males out from hiding to join in the annual ritual drifting their nymphs or whatever through those precious fish.

Watch where we walk and give them time to get things done :)
 
Top