Spring is a time for rejuvenation. Trees bloom, Snow melts and Trout Spawn. Specifically, Rainbow and Cutthroats. It’s the spawning that gives us the next generation of fish. This spring season is also spawning season for rainbow trout and they frequently occupy gravel areas where they dig beds or redds and reproduce. This process is critical to the sustainability of wild trout populations and suitable fishing etiquette is equally important.
THE RAINBOW TROUT SPAWN TIMING
The precise time of the rainbow trout spawn differs slightly depending on its natural habitat. In tailwater fisheries where there is less variation in water temperature below a dam, the occurance can be unpredictable and out of season. Nevertheless, in most cases spawning occurs during spring or late spring. As soon as it wraps up, runoff commences shortly after.
Rainbow trout’s spawning period varies by geographical area. Lower elevations close to Denver and Colorado Front Range are likely to witness spawning in February and March while higher locations bring colder temperatures causing them to reproduce between March and April. Across different states, the spawn may transpire between February through May with some regions expanding towards outside of this range.
Identifying Spawning Habitat
Unique spawning locations are often sought out by the ever-potent trout species. It is not uncommon to see pea gravel chosen for their redds, although slightly larger substrates will do as well. Spring spawners seem to take advantage of varying river flows, focusing on areas that experience both high and low water levels. The heads of riffles appear to be very popular areas, however they can also utilize flat waters and bends in the riverbed when trying to establish a spawning ground.
It is quite easy to spot these redds; usually there will be a gathering of fish or an organized patch of substrate that stands out from the rest. This comes from female trout furiously fanning their tails over the gravel in order create an ideal nesting area – it appears much tidier than its surroundings due to this behavior!
Smaller creeks/tributaries of lager rivers are prime spawning habitat for Trout. Many rivers in Colorado have temporary closure that will extend for 100 feet above and below a spawning tributary for the main river. There are many creeks like Grizzly creek in Glenwood canyon where you can observe Trout spawning.
Protecting our Resource
When it comes to catching fish without compromising their spawn, anglers should be mindful of where they cast. Redd areas, or shallow water and riffles where the fish are actively laying eggs, should be avoided so that the spawned fish can remain undisturbed. A great way to still have a fruitful day on the water is to use egg patterns during this period or focus on larger trout with streamers. On top of that, target those who are visible feeding on the surface as an alternative strategy!
Fishing well downstream of Redds is a good way to target Trout that are not spawning, but still actively feeding. Often large brown trout will lay downstream of a Redd and eat the excess eggs that get washed of the Redd. If you observe an abandoned Redd, chances are good that trout are above or below feeding.
Please do not walk on or directly above a Redd. Remember that the Redd is a nest full of eggs and disturbing the nest will endanger the eggs.