The trout reproduce in rivers and streams at various times of the year depending on the species. Should we fish during a spawn? Or, should we stay off the river during the spawning seasons? I think it is positively important to be knowledgeable of the trout spawn, and to make a plausible decision based on that knowledge. Of course, follow rules, regulations, or closures due to spawning in your area. If the angler knows how to respect and fish responsibly during the spawning periods, there realistically can be year-round enjoyable fishing and little repercussions for the future generations of the fish and for the future of our ecosystem.
Different species of trout spawn at different times of the year. Some trout will spawn in the spring through early summer and even to mid-summer in higher elevations, while other trout will begin their redds starting early fall through mid-winter. Rainbow trout are spring spawning fish and may start their spawn around March and will continue through May. Cutthroat trout are late spring to early summer spawning fish. Brown trout are fall spawning fish around late September through mid-December. Brook trout are fall spawning fish between the months of September and October. Elevation, water temperature, and local climate can all affect these spawning time periods.
During the time periods of trout spawn, it is vital to be observant for these trout nests called redds. The trout create redds by fanning their tails in areas of flatter water. It is a space of groomed, typically of pea-sized gravel that trout have shifted into a depression on the river bottom. Oftentimes, there is a small heap of gravel at the downstream side of the redd. Female trout will deposit her eggs in the redd, and the males will fertilize them with milt. Many of the eggs will sift and collect into the gravel of the depression and the gravel heap. Trout are extremely aggressive while on their redds to guard the eggs and spawning habitat.
First and foremost, do not walk across redds. Walking across a redd can perpetually mash thousands of eggs and displace many others. Displaced eggs have no chance of hatching and crushed eggs undeniably have no survival. If in need of crossing, avoid redds as much as possible. It is the angler's responsibility of respectful wading as well as their dogs. If your dog is not anytime soon to be winning the blue-ribbon prize for obedience, place them on a leash. Leaving them home during the spawning time maybe also another option.
During the spring and early summer months, water may often vary in clarity due to spring melt and runoff conditions. Be very careful when wading where you step. Detecting redds maybe more difficult to spot. In the fall, water levels are frequently at laggard flows. Water clarity is typically pristine, so take the time to pinpoint the redds before wading in the water. If in need of crossing during low flows during spawning, it is best to avoid turning up mud and silt over redds. Covering of settled mud and silt over eggs can be less optimal. It is best to cross downstream below the redds, or walk along the banks.
Fishing to these trout on their redds is detrimental and makes them very susceptible. Mishandling a spawning trout could disrupt or strain their abilities to spawn entirely. Catching a female from her redd can cause her stress or reaction to where she may immediately begin releasing her eggs. Sadly, there are anglers who mishandle and place tension on these females and leaving the river banks with hundreds of dead eggs. Male trout will drop milt from the same stressors of being fished. These trout will have wasted their reproductive abilities from the trauma of being mistreated during spawning.
While fishing during a spawn, it is wise to try to land the fish quickly to help prevent exhausting and stressing the fish. This will respectfully and in favor of keeping females from dropping eggs and males from wasting their milt. Do not squeeze fish as this can cause internal organ damage. Do not drag fish across grass, dirt, rocks, onto the bank. Keeping them wet will give the fish the opportunity to prosper. With taking photos, be hasty with the fish out of water. As always with release, ensure the fish are properly recovered before freed back into the water.
Fishing during a spawn can be amazing even while avoiding redds completely. Fish the deep pots, along the edges of the river, the undercut banks, and sections of water away from the redds. Leave the spawning trout the chance to reproduce. Recognize redds during spawning season, take into consideration with careful wading, and give high regards with handling fish with ease. No need to yell or knock out the next guy. Be a river ambassador, and help others be aware so that the fish can successful with spawning. These reflections will help to ensure our fisheries continue to flourish in our areas.