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Spooky Brown Trout Spawn

by: Ben Swigle 10/14/2013

Winter and fall colors arrive early in North Park.  While the aspens are certainly vibrant the fall colors Iím referring belong to brown trout in North Delany Butte Lake located 15 minutes west of Walden.  The beauty of brown trout in full spawn shades is one of the most amazing color combinations in the fisheries realm.  If Halloween was sponsored by a fish it would certainly be a brown trout with its body coloration described as dark olive combined with splashes of pumpkin orange.  While observing these fish in spawning color is gratifying Colorado Parks and Wildlife crews descended upon North Delany Butte Lake and Antero Reservoir with one goal in mind; reloading Colorado waters with young trout.

The bar was set a little higher than normal this year with roughly 850,000 brown trout fingerlings requested for stocking in 2014 into Colorado waters.  The process of producing young brown trout begins by deploying trap nets which are a beefed-up version of a crab pot that relies on the principle that once a fish swims through a network of mesh tunnels is extremely difficult to exit the original entry point.  After soaking the nets overnight, returns at North Delany were incredible with some nets containing upwards of 250 adult brown trout.

Once retrieved from the nets, fish are transported to a large tank where females and males are sorted.  Male trout develop a hooked jaw called a kype while female browns are more rounded and stout as the eggs grow in her swollen abdomen. After a quick dip in a diluted anesthetic, allowing biologist to safely handle the fish, the egg collection process begins. 

Providing the egg component, female brown trout eggs are removed by gently stroking the fishís belly in the direction of a vent, located just in front of the tail. Next, sperm from a male brown is added to the pan along with a splash of water, to activate the fertilization process.  After stirring the mixture for 90 seconds with a goose feather, the eggs are rinsed and stored in a 5 gallon baseball cooler to water harden.  After the trout are spawned they are returned to the water after a short stint in a recovery tank which bubbles pure oxygen.

Within a few hours the fertilized eggs are delivered to the Bellvue Hatchery near LaPorte, the Poudre Hatchery west of Tedís Place, and a state facility in Glenwood Springs.  With each female producing 2,100 eggs, approximately 700 female and 1,000 male trout produced sufficient offspring for restocking in a matter of 4 days.  Although brown trout do not naturally reproduce in lake environments, thousands of browns remained in their respective homes not to be tormented by the spawning process.

The finished product, 3-5 inches brown trout, will be stocked into 60 Colorado waters most of which are lakes or reservoirs as brown trout reproduce naturally in many of Coloradoís river and streams. North Delany Lake is always a priority receiving 31,000 five inch browns following ice off.

Crews taking brown trout eggs and sperm at Antero had a successful season as well collecting more than 650,000 brown trout eggs and an additional 200,000 eggs fertilized with brook trout sperm (see tiger trout).

Fishing at North Delany is open during the spawning operation (minus the dam along the SW corner) however special regulations protect brown trout in their prime spawning size and age from harvest.  Anglers can expect great results as the spawning run is nearly complete and the fish return to aggressive feeding.  With North Delany Lake reserved mostly for brown trout, the South and East Lakes offer fishing for trophy rainbow and cuttbow trout.  Water temperatures have dropped to the low 40ís but the angling season will continue once the lakes are capped with ice.  Consider a visit to North Park this fall and experience the thrill of catching a spooky brown trout; you wonít be disappointed.

A pond of brown trout eggs and milt.
A male brown trout.
Blog content © Ben Swigle
Member comments
IceFishingFool, CO   10/14/2013 11:55:46 AM
Thanks Ben: very informative writeup.
skiman, CO   10/15/2013 7:00:02 AM
Great read Ben...Keep up the good work! Ski
opencage, CO   10/15/2013 12:21:18 PM
I love hearing how this stuff works, and how CPW manages our fisheries. Thanks for the good info and great work Swigs.
team FMFO , CO   10/15/2013 2:11:54 PM
Great blog and info on my favorite place to fish ! Thanks. :-)
JKaboom, CO   10/17/2013 10:47:12 PM
Great blog with great info !!
Ben Swigle
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