Know Your Trout

Discussion in 'Mississippi River Basin' started by spinner, Feb 1, 2009.

  1. spinner

    spinner Staff Member

    Know Your Trout

    Written by: Len Harris
    Photos by: Len Harris

    There are four different types of trout in small stream Wisconsin. The native species are brook trout. There are two types of trout that are immigrants; the brown trout and the rainbow. The rainbows in our streams are brood stock released by the Department of Natural Resources. The browns were brought here originally by European settlers. There is a fourth kind called a Tiger trout. This is a hybrid between a brook and brown trout. The tiger is the "Mule" of the trout world.

    Note the pointed head on this male neon colored Tiger Trout.

    The brown trout were brought here quite some time ago in the holds of ships in barrels. There were two basic strains of browns brought over to the new world.; the German brown and the Scottish brown. The German browns initially were very distinguishable from the other type of immigrant. German browns were known for their dark spots and a smattering of red spots in between the dark ones. The Scottish were known for their lack of red spots. The spots were typically bigger and father apart. Most of this type of brown was brought from a specific deep lake in Scotland . It was called Loch Leven. Loch Leven means lake eleven. Through the years the difference between the two browns have been mixed out. The only way to truly tell the difference is to see how they are dressed. One will be wearing a kilt and the other lederhosen.


    A female brown trout.

    A female rainbow brooder

    Male brown. Obvious kype and pointed larger head.

    The most obvious way to tell gender of a trout is from the shape of its head . A male trout will typically have a much more pointed head. The head will be much longer from the edge of the gill plate to the tip of the nose. During or near spawning times the male trout will develop a hooked lower jaw. That lower jaw is called a kype. Near spawning times the male trout take on more color. The brookies will at some times almost look neon colored. The female brookies are more drab colored. This is nature's way of protecting them while they are on the spawning beds.

    This male brookie has a kype and neon spawning colors.

    A male butter bellied Brown.

    Male browns can take on some really impressive colors as well. The males look bronze or buttery colored. The tiger trout appears to be more related to the brook trout than the brown trout here in Wisconsin. They are extremely rare . The male tigers seem to have more neon colors near spawning time as well. It is truly a shame. The male tigers are all dressed up and no place to go. All tigers in small streams in Wisconsin are sterile.

    Female tiger. Note the small non pointed head.

    Another way to guess gender is by size. Most female trout of each species grow faster than the males. An eight year old male brown may be 22 inches and the female from the same spawning bed typically is about 2-3 inches longer. Most female trout are also a little wider. This is how nature made them so they could handle large amounts of eggs.

    How old is that trout BIG you just caught? The size of the trout is based on genetics and food sources. If its mom and dad were in the larger size range they will have the potential to grow bigger. All of the genetics in the world will not cause a large trout if the trout has no food or too little food to eat to grow. There have been many studies done that show when there is an increase in numbers of trout in a stream the general size goes down. Some of these streams have been designated a higher harvest rate due to this. This seems kind of unnatural, but when people get involved in the recent craze of managing trout numbers (Catch & Release) , then the natural balance tends to turn upside down. In some of those overrun streams instead of blindly throwing those trout back in, you should harvest the number suggested by the DNR.
    The stream will be more healthy and you will indirectly help the overall size of the trout. If you want to catch bigger trout...keep some of those trout!

    Stocking of trout in streams with natural reproduction also has a negative effect on trout population. The hatchery fish eggs typically gestate at a different rate and the fry hatch out too early, and there is not enough for them to eat due to the stream temperatures being so cold. The hatchery fish and naturally born trout inter-mingle later and cause the spawning process to be thrown off kilter.

    There is a myth that you should NOT keep larger trout, that they are some type of superior breeder or have superior blood lines. This is totally unproven rhetoric. There have been many studies done on this subject. The results vary widely. They are basically spun to suit the group that has done the study and what THEY want the statistics to say.

    Big trout in all species have had many years to plant their genetic markers in the stream they live in. Big trout are meat eaters. They lose the want to eat small bugs when they hit elder status. They are carnivores and eat many small trout.

    The fairy tale that big trout get big because of some superior intellect is just that. Trout get big from lack of fishing pressure and lots of little trout to eat. There is a genetic part to the equation but it is nullified in most streams by the catch and release craze.

    If you catch a trout of a lifetime you should keep it. You are directly helping the stream you are fishing. You have taken the biggest predator in that stream out of the equation.I am not saying take every large fish out of that waterway. I am saying keep that HUGE trout.

    There is nothing wrong with letting that HUGE trout either. To each his own.

    You might want to mount it if it truly is that trout of a lifetime. Most good taxidermists can skin the trout the day you turn it in to them. They will have that filleted trout for you to eat in short work. I have eaten many large trout and the meat does NOT taste bad. This way you will not just be wasting the meat. There is nothing wrong with putting a skin mount on the wall to brag and be proud of .

    The fiberglass reproductions of trout are good nowadays, but they do lack that realistic look. They also lack the memories that are attached to that real fish. Research your taxidermist prior to picking one. Like any kind of artist, their talents vary. Tight lines all and please take children to the streams and give them the potential to catch a trout of a lifetime.


    Chase *spinner* Jacobson my nephew. Chase caught this HUGE male brown when he was 5 years old. It is on the wall of living room now.
  2. Steve

    Steve Staff Member

    Nice pictures. Especially that last pig!