How far and high can trout leap? [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: How far and high can trout leap?

11-03-2004, 12:21 AM
The stream I'm fishing has many small waterfalls and cataracts and I often find myself trying to determine how the trout migrate, or even if its possible. Some of the waterfalls are a few feet high with boulders surrounding.

The river was stocked a few years ago and I'm thinking that there are certain points higher up where no trout exist (beyond the original stocking points).

I'm guessing that in times of high water they can migrate upstream if the flow levels out. Anyone else note similar situations?

11-03-2004, 10:28 PM
Good evening,
I was telling this story early last year. While fishing small lakes in the Coast range of Oregon, I decided to follow a sizeable feeder stream back to its source. After 1 1/2 hours of trudging through the thickets and brambles, and having to break away from the water many times, I came across a beautiful beaver pond about 1/2 the lenth of a football field, 45-60' across, and the fishing was well worth the trip! But the whole time, the quiet was filled with the sound, that I could only be describe as, someone pouring a endless bucket of water into a pool. I went to explore. At the end of the beaver dam, a log had loosened and a spout of water about 9x9 inches free fell 3-4 feet into a pool below. While I stood there, I saw at least 4-6 small Trout make this passage in 1 try, no problem at all! Tenacious little buggers, I kept saying to my self. Also, While fishing High Lakes in the Oregon Cascades, I have had Trout jump 1-2' out of the water to grab my fly, in mid air!
So migrating stocks can make, what we may look at as impossible, climbs, leaps and jumps. And when the water is up, even better!


11-05-2004, 09:47 AM
If you want to know how high a trout can jump just go to Yellowstone Park in mid October. Drive up Fire Hole Canyon to the falls and watch both Brown Trout and Rainbows trying to jump the falls on their spawning run from Hebgan Lake. The falls are about 15 to 20 feet high surrounded by rock wall and a deep pool below the falls. The trout can not make the jump to the upper Fire Hole, just too high but they come real close at times. Having worked for the Park Service and lived at Madison Junction I had plenty of time to sit in watch one of the best shows in Yellowstone. Trout of all sizes from 16 inches to 30 plus inches would launch themselves out of the pool below and hit the hard water coming down from above or hit the hard rock walls on each side of the falls. Some of the leaps were 10 to 12 feet and it had to hurt no matter where they hit. Going face first into the wall with such power and speed can not be good for the fish body but within a few minutes you can see the same trout do it again and again.
As interesting and fun as it was to watch the most interesting thing was watching two new types of Rainbow introduced into Hebgan Lake in the early 80's change from Spring Spawners to late Fall early winter spawners over a 5 year period. Each year they spawned earlier and earlier until spawning time was late November. This is the same spawning time as the local rainbows that live in the Fire Hole River. These same type of Rainbows in Hebgan Lake that spawned in other rivers coming into Hebgan Lake spawned in April like most Rainbows. It is believed it is the conbination of warm thermal water, unusual Ph and god only know what else creates this situation where the Rainbows Spawn right next to Fall spawning Browns in the Fire Hole River and upper Madison River.

11-05-2004, 12:16 PM
Fish barrier analysis is one of my tasks from time to time in work. It's basically a problem of projectile motion like you may have done in physics. This probably sounds obvious, but the leap height is dependent upon the velocity that the fish exits the water. The height a fish can leap (ft or m) is equal to its velocity (feet/sec or m/sec) squared divided by 2 times the gravitational acceleration (2* 32.2ft/s/s or 2 *9.81m/s/s). H = (v^2)/2g.

The above is a case where a fish leaps vertically, obviously to leap a falls the fish needs to exit the water at an angle so that it also make forward progress to scale the barrier. This throws a bit of trigonometry into the problem and turns it into that projectile motion problem that I referred to but, suffice to say, it reduces the fishes leap height.

The burst velocity for adult steelhead used most often is about 28 feet/second. A cutthroat about 14 fps. These speeds equate to a height of a little over 12 feet for the steelhead and about 3 ft for the cutthroat. You can find swimming velocities for different fish species on the web. A standard reference is by Milo Bell.

There's much more to it than what I've wrote here, the geometry of the flow and condition of fish are big variables. Water temperature and dissolved oxygen also affect things.

Your fish may be able to migrate in high water if these small falls are drowned out by a downstream backwater that is not as pronounced at lower flows for example. Some (temporary) barriers will be passable in high water conditions while others are passable only at lower water.

11-07-2004, 10:25 PM
Good evening,
OC, great story! Pescaphile, I had no idea there was any research on this, very cool indeed! I started thinkin after I related my story " this guy is going to think I'm crazy" you know, one of those "Had to be there" deals. Thanks for the insight guys, and it is very cool to experience it in person!

I remain, Enlightened! :D

11-10-2004, 05:17 PM
Somewhat unrelated, however, pretty cool anyway. A few years back visiting family in CO, I stopped off at a sweet little crick on Cochetopa Pass, where I was at the altitude was just over 10,000 feet and the crick could not have been 2 1/2 to 3 feet wide and maybe 6 inches deep strewn with decent sized rocks.

I broke out the 6' 3 weight and began to catch brown trout after brown trout, in the middle of nowhere and along maybe 20 yds of water! It was the most productive day of fishing I had ever had.

Unrelated to jumping fish, but nonetheless pretty amazing where these fish will live.


11-10-2004, 08:53 PM
There is a historical account of light bulbs at the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River being contiually broken and it turned out that the culprits were Steelheads the light bolbs were 17' above the water and they were later enclosed in wire baskets to stop the waste of light bulbs.
So Pescaphile did I never tell you about the Habitat Biologist for ADF&G in Sitka that had video of "Salmonids" walking around barriers!!!!!!!!! I am always amazed by the abilitys of fishes to endure in spite of us and the much more severe pressures of "Mother Nature". My great hope is that the next Ice Age somehow bypasses Grand Coulee Dam and the folks who come to settle the "West" try to figure out what kind of releigous symbol this structure was.
Opps penalty flags all over the field no releigous references in post "W"II times. :D

11-11-2004, 07:06 AM
Some great stories!

That gives me a few things to ponder as I rock climb my way through this stream that has an insane gradient--plunge pool after plunge pool, waterfall after a spillway of boulders. How do these trout make their way between pools?

Pescaphile--fantastic post! Very interesting material you're working with there--lucky guy to study the althletic ability of trout.

And the lightbulb story is weird and makes a guy raise his eyebrows in wonder.

Let me reverse the situation: Do trout let themselves get "sucked down" a waterfall? One of my favorite pools has a six foot drop at the end and I wonder if the trout ever get plunged below--on purpose, or instinct?

I think this is a subject that is not addressed often in fishing literature. There are many books about "how to read the water," but few mention how beaver dams, man-made spillways of concrete, and waterfalls and such affect the movement/migration of fish in your favorite river over the seasons.

11-11-2004, 03:36 PM
weren't the inspiration for those glow-in-the-dark okie drifters were they? Oops! Penalty flag for me now too.

I never did hear about that video but would like to hear your account -preferably around a good fire with an appropriate blood-thinning agent. Perhaps those salmonids had a common ancestory with those african walking catfish?

Bob Pauli
12-11-2004, 03:18 PM
Great post!