Im­prov­ing trout spawns

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - FRONT PAGE -

A fish­ing syn­di­cate that

I am a mem­ber of is keen to in­crease the num­ber of brown trout spawn­ing suc­cess­fully in a stretch of river. What can we do prior to spawn­ing to max­imise our suc­cess?

The fe­male trout must dig a redd in which to spawn. It does this by hold­ing sta­tion in the stream and mov­ing gravel with its tail un­til there is a de­pres­sion in the river bed with a small heap of gravel. When male fish are present she will take up a po­si­tion in the de­pres­sion and re­lease her eggs at the same time as the male re­leases its milt. Fer­til­i­sa­tion is a hit-and-miss af­fair in the fast-flow­ing wa­ter and the fer­tilised egg must be­come lodged in the heap of gravel at the back of the redd.

Com­pacted spawn­ing grav­els will im­pact on the suc­cess of trout spawn­ing. Some peo­ple jet-wash known spawn­ing grav­els in Oc­to­ber, well be­fore the trout have taken up res­i­dence, though this is quite an ag­gres­sive ac­tion. Many years ago, some chalk­stream keep­ers would have a horse drag a har­row across the grav­els to loosen them; oth­ers pre­ferred a more hands-on ap­proach and used rakes.

Each Oc­to­ber I spend a few hours shuf­fling around the shal­lows, fac­ing up­stream with a 6ft length of cor­ru­gated tin placed hor­i­zon­tally across my legs and rest­ing on my toes. This stretch is blessed with rel­a­tively loose gravel and the draught of wa­ter un­der the sheet of tin is suf­fi­cient to tickle up the gravel and keep it loose enough for both trout and grayling spawn­ing.

Avian pre­da­tion, par­tic­u­larly by herons, can also im­pact on the spawn­ing suc­cess of brown trout, which are es­pe­cially vul­ner­a­ble in shal­low wa­ter to a bird that will stab away in­dis­crim­i­nately at what is placed be­fore it. I will al­ways leave any bank­side tree work un­til af­ter spawn­ing has fin­ished to pro­vide as much cover as pos­si­ble to spawn­ing fish. CDC

Brown trout are par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble to herons

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