Fishing for Spawning fish Y/N? [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Fishing for Spawning fish Y/N?

07-22-2002, 12:09 AM
Those of you who have actually read some of these posts lately have had considerable insight and enlightened opinions. Considering some of the ethical debates we have had lately, I thought I'd pitch this to the forum. I fish the White River which is definately one of the best brown trout fisheries in the world. One of our hottest little local issues here is guides that fish for spawning fish. Pretty much if you fish in the winter time here there are going to be spawning fish around. If they are not directly in the act of spawning they are either pre-spawn, post-spawn, or some form of staging, moving ect. We have two sides of the debate and all points in between. Those that see nothing wrong with catching and releasing fish off the beds, and those that won't even step in the water during the fall.

I'll try not to taint this post with any personal views so as not to affect its out come. We are not talking about stepping in the reds. The "foot traffic" of uneducated anglers can be fairly damaging. Just the act of hooking, landing, and releasing a fish in one of the stages of spawning and or actually on a bed.

First, please note that 99% of the fish that are taken on a bed are males. The females will rarely take while actually "on" a bed. Second these fish will lose some 20% of their body mass from the summer over the spawn season. Which would be typical anyway probably due some what to the gourging they due during the summer. Thirdly, the life span of our fish are some 20 years. They do not die immediately after spawning. Although, they may have a long winter ahead of them. And finally, typically water temps and oxygen levels this time of the year are such that the fish are somewhat easier to revive than they are during the heat of the summer.

To fish or not to fish? What do you do on your rivers?


07-22-2002, 09:00 AM
Back in the U.K. fishing shuts down by law during spawning season. Generally late fall through springtime but dates vary from area to area to coincide with local spawning behaviors. Trout spawning is pretty much an over-winter affair but migratory fish vary considerably across the UK and Ireland.

During the pre-spwn period fish are at their prime condition for the year (bright, fit and full of power) and this tends to be the best time for a shot at a trophy fish. Once spawning gets going they gradually lose condition until by the end are a pretty sorry sight. Personally I would rather not target them at this time.

07-23-2002, 09:26 PM
In Michigan several rivers which have all wild steelhead and salmon close their nursery head waters during prime spawning periods.

Regular trout fishing season ends on September 30th and opens on the last saturday in April on all of the trout streams. So autumn and spring spawning trout are removed from major angler interference, particularly in the head waters.

There are a number of rivers which are open 7X24 which contain both trout and andramous salmon and steelhead. However the above types of river closures apply on these Rivers which are open 7x24 with no restrictions are hatchery fisheries with almost no wild reproduction. Put and take fisheries.

The major wild steelhead and salmon rivers have closures in the head waters to ensure successful spawning. On the PM this runs from 9/30 until the next April and covers approximately 70 miles of river. Thousands of wild spawning fish are undisturbed by anglers.

It appears many steelhead anglers have now learned it is more efficient to fish for the males in front or back of an active female's redd. If you hook the female it will scatter the males and your fishing will be over for a while. Females will readily take an egg fly or nymph.

I see many more wild fish being released now, where as twenty years ago they would look at you like you were crazy or something if you released salmon or steelhead of any type.

Since we are blessed at the present time with healthy returns of fish and they are protected as described above, I do not have a big issue with anglers fishing for them while on the beds if they choose in the sections of the river that are not closed to fishing. All of the salmon die after their first spawning and they say 90% of the steelhead die after their first spawning or some high % like that.

In the Arkansas situation where these are stream trout that can have a long life and multiple spawns I would probably not be fishing for them during this period unless I could specifically fish for the males with a low probability of hooking a female.

And of course everything I catch these days is immediatedly released, just for the record !

My 2 cents