Driftless Trout Anglers

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Life of Riley  
#1 Posted : Thursday, March 12, 2020 7:37:47 AM(UTC)
Life of Riley
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One thing I've always wondered a lot about is the coloring of different trout. I understand that there are many variables on this, and knowing everything about mother nature isn't always possible. It seems from what I've heard that males tend to "color up" prior to and during the spawn. Do you think that a spawning male that gets really vibrant colors in the fall will keep these colors for the rest of his life? Do trout change colors over time, or are they like a chameleon and can change colors in minutes or seconds? I've caught large males with deep yellow and orange color and also I caught a male recently just over 20" in a stream that was almost silver. Last year in Wisconsin I went with 2 buddies brookie fishing, it was June 9th. While I was on a different stretch of the creek, one guy hooked a GIANT brookie (by driftless standards). He had fought it in and nearly in the net, when the big male made one last surge while on top of a very shallow sandbar. He pulled free and so no pictures, but they both estimated the fish to be around 17" and they got a really good look at him. My buddy told me the fish was just beautiful and a really deep body, with the bright red/orange belly, white fin tips, and black back and mouth. Now before you think this is another "fish tale", both of these guys have made multiple fly in trips to canada and landed a number of giants at the Gods river, as well as other very remote locations. They are not bullshiters, but rather very matter of fact people. But with June being so far from the brook trouts spawning time, it made me wonder if once they "turn" colors, they stay that way? Thank you for any info you have on trout colorings, whether scientific or anecdotal. As most of you know, one of the best parts of catching all these trout in the driftless, is the colors.
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Pete  
#2 Posted : Thursday, March 12, 2020 1:11:25 PM(UTC)
Pete
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I'm under the impression that the spawning colors are temporary and they revert to normal coloration as the spawn ends. The colored-up male your friends encountered in June is a real outlier. There are always trends, but not every member of the species adhere to them perfectly. Right now, many deer have shed their antlers. Some dropped them mid-Winter, some since and some will maintain them for weeks yet. I suppose if one looks hard enough a buck with antlers could be found mid-Summer.

Spawning colors have costs: it makes the fish very visible to predators; normal coloration has a lot to do with camouflage. So if a fish displays spawning coloration when there is no likelihood of spawning, what would the evolutionary advantage be? He's not increasing the chance of attracting a mate; he's increasing the likelihood of being eaten. Not much of an advantage in Darwinian terms.

Male steelhead will take on some loud colors to attract a mate or mates when spawning: bright red stripe, a dark back, pronounced kype. But they change back quickly often while still headed downstream back out to Lake Michigan or the ocean. More than a few anglers have been fooled into thinking they caught a chrome-who would be very good table fare-when in fact they caught a fish who just underwent the rigors of spawning. They discover their error when they see the greyish atrophied muscle when they were expecting a healthy orange flesh. The point being that in the case of the typical steelhead, loss of spawning colors is pretty quick.
weiliwen  
#3 Posted : Thursday, March 12, 2020 3:23:12 PM(UTC)
weiliwen
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And even between watersheds the coloration can be quite different. I caught two browns of about the same size on the same day, one in the Coon Valley watershed, and one in the Bad Axe watershed. One looked almost like sea runs I have seen, silvery with barely visible spots, and one was buttery yellow with pronounced spots
Bob Williams, "Weiliwen"
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