Don’t Tread On Redd

Photo Courtesy of Joshua Edwards

Fish responsibly this fall and be mindful of spawning browns.

It’s pretty hard not to appreciate the transitional visuals that come with fall. But if you live by a river or stream, foliage isn’t the only thing that takes on vibrant hues of reds, yellows and oranges this time of year — brown trout do as well. Large, colorful fish, laid up in quiet, shallow water may seem like a high fastball of an opportunity but before you drop your bug up current or slap that streamer down, think about why the fish is sitting where it is and why it looks the way it does. Chances are, this fish is sitting on or protecting its spawning redd. In situations like this, resist the urge to cast and let the fish be.

Before depositing her eggs, a female brown must first locate the perfect spot. Most often, she settles on an area in shallow water with light current. While not always the case, side channels and tributaries of larger rivers are often chosen. After selecting her ideal location, she gets to work. With her body and tail, she aggressively clears away gravel and any other form of debris from the river bottom. These oval shaped areas range anywhere from the size of a football to a kitchen table. With her nursery complete, she drops her eggs and covers them with gravel. Just like most expectant mothers, she becomes hyper protective and highly territorial when it comes to her unborn babies. She remains tough and has to — to other fish in the river, her eggs are a seasonal delicacy and she will soon have to fight off a long line of male suitors that don’t meet her selective standards. To pose a threatening appearance, her already colorful markings take on deeper, more vibrant shades. While the female’s colors develop as an intimidation factor, the enhanced colors of a male as well as their kype jaw serve to attract. When the female settles on a suitable male, he fertilizes the eggs and the life cycle of a new generation begins.

No doubt, fall provides ample fishing opportunities and the odds of a lights out day are always there. If you know what to look for and fish responsibly, you can enjoy this season guilt free. If you see a redd, give it a wide berth or better yet, jump out of the water onto the bank and walk downstream to find another run to explore. If you see a redd with that brightly colored two-footer lurking around, remember — this fish is doing you a favor by performing her or his biological duty and in turn, you are doing them a favor by leaving them alone to let nature take its course.

1. Minimize the amount of wading you do inside the stream to avoid stepping on a redd. If you come across a redd, take a wide berth on the stream bank.

2. Focus on deeper water and faster currents when possible.

3. Debarb your hooks, fish heavy line and land fish as quickly as possible.

4. If you do catch a “colored-up” fish, minimize the time its out of the water and practice proper catch-and-release (do this year round) techniques. Better yet, leave the fish in the water and use forceps to remove the hook without handling the fish.

5. If you have to handle a fish, dunk your hands in the water first. Don’t handle fish with dry hands.


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About John Frazier

John Frazier is the Community Specialist at Simms Fishing Products. Fresh or salt, John loves being on or around the water. When he doesn't have a rod in hand, chances he's watching the action unfold through the view finder of his camera while mentally crafting a story.