Extreme Trout Fishing
If you have caught Rainbow, Brown, and Brook trout it may be time to try to catch some of the more exotic trout species. I had this revelation a few years ago after a trout fishing rip to Montana. We fly-fish for everything and caught a lot of fish but they were mostly Rainbow and Brown that are typical for the area around West Yellowstone, Montana.
We also caught a few small Brook and a couple of Cut-bows (Rainbow/Cutthroat hybrid) in about a week of fishing. I had lived out west for many years and have seen many different rivers, lakes and trout. I decided to find out how many trout species there were in North America and see how difficult it would be to catch them all. The quest was on! It turns out that there are twenty trout species, but that number has been revised several times during the quest.
The problem is that hybrids keep showing up, and a cross between a bull trout and brook trout turned up last month so the total number of species continues to climb and has reached twenty-one.
I have been able to catch 15 of the different species up to this point, and there have been many adventures and different places to fish. The quest has required fishing parts of North America that I would have otherwise never considered. Many of the unique species are native to the western United States.
Golden Trout, Bull Trout, Gila Trout, and Apache Trout are good examples of what the west holds. Golden Trout are native to California but exist in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. Bull Trout are found in Montana, Idaho, and Oregon while Gila are only found in New Mexico, and Apache only in Arizona. Some of the extreme part of this trout adventure is extreme travel.
I have been fortunate in that regard and have lived in the western United States and Alaska, and this has made my trout quest a little easier. Two of the trout on the list are common in Alaska. Steelhead and Dolly Varden existed in many of the streams and rivers in the southeastern islands of Alaska that were not far from my Ketchikan home.
Some of the trout do not get particularly large, but are so unique and difficult to find and catch that it is a thrill to see one and get a picture. All of the fish have been released with a couple of exceptions. Read on about Aurora Trout. The three most rare trout are the Sunapee, Aurora and Gila. They are difficult to find and difficult to catch. Aurora exist in nine lakes in northern Ontario, Canada and are endangered. Limited fishing was opened for Aurora in 2006 and only three lakes are open to fishing each year.
There is a one fish limit, you must keep anything that is caught, and you may only have one fish in your possession. Aurora are a true one and done scenario, and are difficult to catch. They tend to be a deep water fish when the season is open (the season opens August 1), require deep sinking fly line, a minnow imitation, and lots of patience. I caught one fish in three days of fishing. Gila Trout are also endangered and are native to New Mexico.
Limited fishing was opened for Gila in 2007. They are a small stream fish that live in the deep mountains of western New Mexico. Small nymphs worked best, but several small Browns and Rainbows were also caught. Getting to them is difficult and fishing for them is small stream stalking with a stealthy presentation. Sunapee may be the most difficult of all of the North American trout to find. They were native to New Hampshire and Vermont but no longer exist in those States. Sunapee are Char and when Lake Trout were introduced into the native Sunapee lakes they hybridized with the Lakers and disappeared. Maine did save some of the Sunapee and does have a few lakes where they can be caught. I caught one Sunapee this year in a driving rain-storm with hail from Long Pond, Maine. Extreme fishing conditions for extreme fish!
There are many other different trout that are difficult to reach and catch. Golden Trout are one of the most beautiful fish in the world and exist only in the cleanest and clearest water high in the western mountains. They are native to California but were introduced years ago to several other western states. The largest fish today seem to be in Montana and Wyoming, but large is somewhat of a misnomer for Golden. The state record fish are in the 5-6 pound range, but most Goldens are less than 12-inches. The world record Golden was caught years ago.
I am fishing Montana next year for Golden and hope to catch a fish in the 2-pound range. That is a monster Golden, but they do exist in some lakes. Bull Trout are also a western trout on the endangered species list. They are native to Montana, Idaho, and Oregon, and there is a limited season for these fish in Montana and Oregon. Bull trout are very similar to Dolly Varden and are sometimes difficult to tell apart. I have caught Bull trout in the Bitteroot Mountains of Montana. These trout can get large, but size is directly related to the size of the water being fished. This species is mostly found in rivers and streams, but Flathead Lake, Montana does have a population of Bull Trout.
Somewhere along the way I decided to add all of the hybrid trout species to the list of trout to be caught. I had caught Cut-bows, but had never given any of the other hybrids much thought. I jumped into hybrids last year with a trip to Utah to catch Tiger Trout and Splake. I had a ball and caught several of each species from Forsyth Reservoir located in the Fishlake National Forest. Tiger trout lived up to their name fought well, and are terrific looking fish while Splake are just really pretty. This introduction to hybrid trout led to additional species and more information. Hybrid trout are different in many ways. State Fish and Game Departments have created these fish for several different reasons, but there are also unwanted hybrids.
Cut-bows and the Bull/Brook Trout cross are unintended hybrids that were created when Rainbows were introduced into Cutthroat areas and Brook Trout were introduced into Bull Trout habitat respectively. Both of these hybrids have reduced the populations of native trout and are one of the reasons that Bull Trout are endangered and some of the Cutthroat subspecies no longer exist. Most of the wildlife agencies are trying to remove the introduced fish, the hybrids, and restore the native trout.
All of the created hybrids seem to be exceptional fish. Tiger Trout, Splake, Golden Rainbow, and Albino Rainbow are beautiful fish the serve a purpose in the States were they are being stocked. Splake are the oldest hybrid in North America, and were created in the 1800s in several New England fish hatcheries. They are a cross between Lake Trout and Brook Trout (Speckled Trout), and hence the hybrid name Splake.
They are beautiful fish that are stocked in many States and Canadian Provinces. Maine and Canada use Splake in areas where other trout species do not do well. This hybrid has exceptional characteristics. They have an exceptional growth rate, are hardy, can tolerated warmer water, are resistant to disease, and are not difficult to catch. That last statement is from a fish and wildlife department and I would question that a little bit. I have fished for Splake in several different parts of the United States and Canada and have not caught very many. They are out there, but require some work to catch. The western states use Splake because they are resistant to whirling disease that has taken a toll of many western trout species. Tiger Trout are also resistant to disease and are used in the west for the same reason as Splake. Tiger Trout are a cross between Brook Trout and Brown Trout, and have the fighting characteristics of the Browns.
They are aggressive, make long deep runs, and are fun to catch. The other two hybrids have been created by selective breeding and are color forms of Rainbow Trout. Albino Rainbow are true albinos in that they do not have any color pigment. They are a white trout with red eyes, and are stocked only in Utah. This fish is used as part of the States urban fishing program and is stocked on a put and take basis. Golden Rainbow first showed up in a West Virginia Trout Hatchery in 1954 as an abnormality in a Rainbow Trout hatch.
The fish was so beautiful that West Virginia decided to try to selective breed the fish. They were successful and introduced the fish with experimental stocking in the 1960s. The stockings were a hit with anglers in the State and have been stocked every since. Pennsylvania also stocks a color variation of the Golden Rainbow that is called a Palomino Trout and is a little lighter shade of yellow.
I have learned several things during my trout adventure. My favorite trout so far are Cutthroat, Tiger, and Apache. Cutthroat are the true North American trout. There are 12 subspecies of Cutthroat and you can spend a lifetime just catching all of the subspecies of this magnificent trout. I have caught eight of the subspecies and really enjoy fishing for Cutthroat. I think part of that enjoyment is that they live in some of the prettiest county in the world. Tiger and Apache Trout are similar in that they are aggressive and fight well. Both are uniquely marked and fun to have on the other end on you fly rod.
There are a variety of things to keep in mind if you want to begin this trout quest. You will be traveling throughout North America and much of that travel will be on unimproved roads. An SUV with four-wheel drive is needed for some of the travel. The species are different in likes and dislikes. Some prefer lakes while others are stream fish, and this requires both wading and tubing with a fly rod. With the exception of Steelhead and Dolly Varden, all of the largest trout I have caught have been out of a tube. So tubing is a good thing.
Do your homework. Find out all you can about the area to be fished and what the best conditions are for success. Most of the trout species are aquatic insect eaters and nymph fishing often produces good results. Lake Trout, larger Splake, and Aurora are almost exclusively minnow and forage fish eaters, and to do well with those species some type of minnow imitation is required. In some cases it is important to know when to fish. Lake Trout and Splake fishing seems to be best early in the year shortly after ice-out. Both of those species are lake fish, prefer cold water, and will retreat to the depths as the water warms.
If you want to try some different fishing, search for the unknown trout and try extreme trout fishing!
This summary article provides some information about the some of the trout in North America. Check out the website http://www.northamericatrout.com for complete trout information with pictures, tips, location information, fly patterns, and articles on each of the trout. The site provides information to catch and locate specific trout or to begin your own trout adventure.