Why Spawning Matters
Fish weigh more and are in better shape just prior to spawning. Fish can lose lots of weight during the spawning process, especially those that travel great distances to spawn.
According to fish authorities, eastern trout spawn in the fall and western trout breed during spring months. Some fish species spawn spring and fall; one way nature provides for the continuation of the species.
Spawning Seasons for Trout*
spring rainbow trout, cutthroat trout
summer mountain trout
late sum. to early brook trout, bull trout fall
fall brown trout, lake trout
From Feeding to Spawning Grounds
Most trout feed in the deeper regions of rivers and lakes. However, during spawning they head upstream to areas of highly oxygenated waters (generally, VERY clear water) with gravel bottoms. These areas tend to be in streams and inlets.
During the time that eggs are being released, many fish avoid eating. However, just prior to the beginning of the spawning season, males become more active and protective of females.
They tend to strike at things they ignore at other times: flashy lures, streamer flies, etc. This isn’t the time to worry about what is hatching (generally, anglers use artificial lures of whatever insect is hatching at that time); pull out the flashy/red/hot-orange lure!
During the spawning season, fish become more difficult to see. From above, female backs are exactly the same shade as nest gravel. Even males are well-disguised from the top, although their sides remain colorful.
Females swish their tails to hollow out a spot in the gravel. While they are making their nests, males are gathering around.
Males often fight and it isn’t unusual to see males with chewed-off tails, missing eyes or body punctures! Some die of their wounds.
During spawning, the hens drop low in their nests and eject eggs. Meanwhile, the male sprays milt (sperm). The eggs that drop into the nest are fertilized.
The hen quickly swishes gravel over the eggs, to hide them from predators. This may be repeated several times, eggs stacking in layers with gravel.
With small trout, the spawning may only take a day or two; for larger trout, about 5 days is the norm.
Females produce about 400 eggs per pound of their weight (for example: an 8 ounce female would produce a total of about 200 eggs during spawning season).
After about 3 months, the tiny fish leave the nest and strike out on their own. Fortunately, during every spawning season enough new fish are born to continue the wonderful sport we know as fishing!
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