Outdoors

Browns toughies of trout family

If the trout family had a gangster-like relative, it would be the brown trout.

This is a fish that likes to hang out in dark places – like under logs – mainly feeding in the low light of night and early morning like a waterborne vampire.

The brown trout will gobble down everything from whole crawdads to mice and minnows. “Voracious” and “predacious” are words often used to describe the fish’s feeding habits.

If the water is a little cloudy, the brown trout is less bothered than its cousins – cutthroats and rainbows. If the water is warmer, the brown trout is more tolerant of the heat. The fish can withstand water temperatures up to 75 degrees, although their ideal temperature range is closer to 55 to 65 degrees.

These characteristics give the impression that if brown trout were human, they would hang out in smoky, dimly lit bars.

Brown trout were transplanted into United States waters in 1883. Six years later they arrived in Montana, where it is believed they were first stocked in the Madison River. Since then they have been introduced around the world for sport fishing. Since they are no longer stocked in Montana rivers, though, the fish caught there have naturally reproduced.

When the fish sexually mature – usually at age 3 – they will spawn. The spawn can begin as early as September, usually peaks in October and can last into December. The length of the day the fish are exposed to daylight, called the photoperiod, and the temperature of the water are what prompt spawning.

The number of browns caught by Missouri River anglers decreases in fall as the fish follow their reproductive instincts into tributary streams.

The females will choose shallow, slow-moving water in rivers or streams with a finely cobbled bed in which to lay their eggs. Using their tail, the females make a furrow in the gravel and deposit anywhere from 4,000 to 12,000 eggs. A male brown trout fertilizes the eggs and then the female covers the them again.

The eggs take about 50 days to mature, allowing the young trout to hatch in spring. This can give the minnows a competitive advantage over trout like the rainbow and cutthroat, whose eggs hatch in the summer when streamflows can be dangerously low.

Brown trout have been known to live to 13 years old in lakes, where some of the largest fish are found:

In streams such as Montana’s Big Hole, the fish have a buttery-colored belly. The fish’s spots can also vary, with some having red spots inside brilliant halos of blue. The dorsal fin in front of the tail can be almost blood red — an appropriate color for the gangster of the trout family.



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