California has some wonderful places with many streams flowing through the mountains that are stocked regularly with fish. Trout prefer cold, clean water with high oxygen content. They are commonly found in mountain streams and in unpolluted rivers. Although you can find German Brown here in Southern California, I’ll admit that I haven’t seen the Cutthroat Trout in our neck of the woods. Rainbow Trout are the main ones that they stock in California. The California Golden Trout is a native fish that lives in the high mountain lakes and streams.
Trout have two dorsal fins, straight tail, and a spotted body with scales. Its color varies according to the environment: River Trout are more brightly colored than ones that live in a lake. Brown Trout, for example show a variation in markings and background tone.
Trout are very agile fish, capable of swimming speeds of 6-12 mph, and the fastest swimmer among freshwater fish. Trout are most active when the water temperature are between 41 and 50 degrees. If the temperature rises above this level, trout become inactive. I remember one time seeing an average size fish zipping by so fast that I was surprised by its speed within all that space.
Trout prefer to live alone and defend territory. They feed upon quiet minnows, insects and larvae. I have seen them devour smaller or less agile trout, too. Small insects flying close to the water surface are also eaten frequently. When trout eat insects in this way, they are said to be “on the rise” and if you watch carefully you will be able to see them doing this in the river.
The spawning season is at the beginning of winter. At this time, trout seek out colder stretches of water with higher oxygen content. Each female sets off to lay her eggs, followed by a number of males; makes sense. Egg laying takes place at night and the eggs are not laid all in one batch; instead they are laid in small numbers in different places. It’s amazing that a trout weighing just over 2 lb. can lay 2,000 eggs in this way and then the males come along and fertilize them.
The incubation period is quite long and depends upon the water temperature, taking several months in cold water temperatures. The fry are 1/2 to 1 inch long when they hatch. The small trout feed on plankton and grow at a very slow rate of about 1/2 inch a month. In mountain lakes, some specimens may live up to 5 years, eventually reaching a length of 3 feet and a weight of 33 lb.
Fish farms breed rainbow trout because of their rapid growth. They reach a weight of 1 1/2 lb by two years of age and are then suitable for sale. One of the coolest places I’ve visited is the Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery. I’ve also learned of a fish farm in Russia as well but I’ve never been.
In fast streams, trout shelter in the deep pools behind the boulders. They have to move rapidly to catch food items speeding by. Our son is a great fly fisherman, using the roll cast to prevent the fly tangling with the vegetation. I use power bait, sometimes I use salmon eggs and just cast off the side of the river bank that is slow-moving. I have always loved fishing whether it is fresh or out at sea.
Keep in mind that some places are catch and release and of course having a fishing license is essential. Overall, catching your limit and being outdoors, I would say that trout fishing is a wonderful way to pass the day. With the right rod and spinning wheel, you’re all set.
I know you’re wondering if I put bait on my own hook, touch the fish, clean it myself, cook and eat it, too. The answer is “yes.” Trout are bony but they sure are tasty. More importantly, I think it’s that they put up a real good fight when caught with a hook and line. I’d love to hear your fish story, especially about the one that got away!