Ultimate Guide On When Do Trout Spawn & How To Spot One

by Thavius | Last Updated:   October 8th, 2022
Ultimate Guide On When Do Trout Spawn & How To Spot One

Anglers would agree that trout are beneficial in numerous ways. First, they are an important part of the marine ecosystem as they serve as food for other fish. They can also serve as food for other creatures like birds, bears, and even humans. Apart from that, recreational anglers would also find trout fishing to be a fun exercise. If trout hold this many benefits for the world, it makes plenty of sense to learn everything about them, including their reproduction.

Reproduction is necessary for every living thing, and trout are not exempt. For trout, spawning is the same as reproduction. The process contributes significantly to the ecology and the survival of this species of fish. Many anglers avoid hunting trout during the spawning season because it will harm their chances of surviving in nature. Hence, it is crucial to find out when they spawn. In this piece, you’ll find the answer to the question, “When do trout spawn?”

Let’s begin!

What Does Spawning Mean?

In the fishing world, spawning refers to the production of new offspring. It is also when trout eggs or sperm are deposited into the surrounding waters. This process is necessary for the trout reproduction cycle (and every other fish).

Pre-Spawning Activities

After securing the gravel bar, the female trout will test it by digging a hole and attractively moving her body from side to side. Digging and flexing her body will bring the male trout running head over heels to the redd. Different male trout will aim to be the earliest to get to the redd. Therefore, it becomes a contest as they compete with other males to get to the trout redd. This entire process is referred to as the pre-spawn, and it takes just a few hours.

The Process Of Trout Spawning

Have you ever seen a large trout lying in the shallow part of a stream? If you’ve ever caught a trout in that scenario, you may notice that it’s dripping semen from its anal fin. Chances are high that this trout just completed a spawning process. The spawning process in trout species can be quite fast. You may miss the entire process if you’re unfamiliar with what to look out for.

The following clearly describes occurrences during trout spawning;

Egg Patterns At The Gravel Bar

The gravel bar mentioned earlier is where you’ll find the fish nests called “redds”. The nests, also referred to as redds, are where a female fish (a hen) deposits her eggs. After that, it stimulates the male fish to spray its semen (containing spermatozoa). The hen is tasked with examining the gravel bar and finding if it is a good spot for laying eggs. A clean gravel bar should be loose, free from sand, and about 5–50mm in diameter. The hen usually finds finer gravel at the river bottom.

Usually, the redd is built between November and January. Why? During this period, the water temperatures are cold, and it would be easy to find an oxygenated resting area.

The Spawning 

Eventually, the female trout will lay her eggs, and the male fish will deposit his sperm to fertilize the eggs. After that, the female trout will dig again to cover the eggs with gravel. But you need to note that the size of the redd varies according to the size of the trout. Big fish can move bigger gravels and dig deeper holes. Also, larger trout would release more eggs. 

How Do You Spot A Spawning Trout?

When Do Trout Spawn

If you’ve read fishing articles or are part of a fishing community, you’ve probably often heard things like “fishing during a spawning season” and “fishing for spawning trout”. While fishing during the spawning season is not entirely wrong, baiting a fish to lay eggs is frowned upon.

Hunting during this period will be wasteful because you will be hunting for fish that are uninterested in food and have also shed some weight. The best thing would be to take your fishing activities to a different area. Now that you know not to fish a spawning trout, how do you identify one?

Every angler must be able to identify a spawning fish to avoid reducing the population of these trout species.

Now, let’s look at some common signs of spawning fish:

1. Groups

As you know, trout are usually shoaled together throughout the year. However, it’s an entirely different affair for spawning fish. You will see them in groups rushing across the shallow parts of the water or around weed beds. Sometimes, you will see a male trout following the hen, nudging her to force her to release her eggs.

2. Thrashing

These fish will be moving across weed beds and reeds quickly. Sometimes, they may make the lake into a mud bath. These fast movements may be easily confused with fish feeding, but it is not the same.

3. Nodules

Nodules are small lumps on the bodies of fishes. These nodules make trout hard to catch and rough to touch. Even though these nodules look strange, don’t fret. It causes no harm to the fish. They are only a sign of spawning.

Since we’ve been able to identify the process of spawning and how to spot spawning fishes, let’s move to the main subject of this guide – trout spawning seasons

When Do Trout Spawn?

When Do Trout Spawn

Brown trout (Salmo trutta) preparing for spawning in a small creek

To start with, the spawning season is a period where a species of fish engages in reproductive activities and makes new offspring. It will also interest you to know that different species reproduce at other times of the year. Hence, it may be difficult to pinpoint a particular period as a season for trout spawning. Nonetheless, we can make educated guesses on when a trout will spawn based on the type of spawn and the area where you live.

To help you coordinate your fishing activities, we’ll be revealing specific spawning seasons for different types of trout.

Watch this video to learn about how to fish during trout spawning season:

When Do Rainbow Trout Spawn?

If you are a fan of fly fishing techniques to catch trout, you’d agree that your most common target will be rainbow trout. No doubt, they are everyone’s favorites because of their popularity. If you don’t know, rainbow trout are the most common species in US waters. Also, they are everywhere—from the northern to the southern hemispheres.

During this reproductive phase, you’d find pre-spawn rainbow trout acting violently as they fight to get to the eggs in time. If you truly love these species of fish, then you’d let them reproduce sustainably. But when do rainbow trout spawn?

Generally, rainbow trout spawn in the late spring. However, these exact months may differ based on your region, as spring comes at other times. Those in the northern hemisphere would spawn around January and June, while those in the southern hemisphere would spawn between September to November.

Other factors may also influence when a rainbow trout would spawn. Some of these factors may include water temperature, water flow, oxygen level, etc. Mind you, rainbow trout lay eggs during the same period as cutthroat trout. So, remember to stay off these species during this time of the year.

When Do Brown Trout Spawn?

In some parts of the world, brown and rainbow trout spawn around the same time. However, in the US, these trout species spawn at different times. This occurrence is good, as you can shuffle between different types of fish during their spawning period.

This species spawns around October to December, which is during the fall. Invariably, they also reproduce during the cold months of the year. Nevertheless, the spawning may continue till late January if there are milder winters. They share a similar spawning period with Brook trout and Atlantic salmon.

Compared to other freshwater fishes that spawn in warmer climates, fall brown trout, and other trout are the black sheep as their eggs need plenty of dissolved oxygen in the water for survival. So, the eggs’ chances of survival go higher when the water temperatures drop below a certain level.

Watch this video to learn how brown trout spawn:

When Do Brook Trout And Lake Trout Spawn?

Brook and lake trout spawn around the same period in the US. They generally reproduce in the fall, from August to November. However, the exact period depends on the region of the world.

In the north, spawning occurs earlier as the fish prefer milder water temperatures. You’ll find that lake trout spawning occurs around August or September in Canada. However, spawning happens around October in the US. And if you move further south, you’d discover that spawning may occur during early winter (November) or even December.

However, trout anglers must remember that fish rarely look at the calendar. They only follow the atmospheric conditions of their immediate environment.

Key Insights & Takeaways

A true angler is expected to understand the trout lifecycle, including the spawning seasons of each species. Depending on the species of trout in their region, knowing the spawning phase of a trout guides the angler on when to fish and when not to. If you’re interested in learning about trout spawning, then I hope you have learned a lot from this post. The next thing is for you to head out into the woods and catch some wild trout.

– Happy Fishing –

Frequently Asked Questions

What month does trout spawn?

There’s no one specific month when trout spawn. It usually depends on factors like the atmospheric condition and the type of trout. Rainbow trout and cutthroat trout usually spawn during the spring, while brown, brook, and lake trout spawn during the fall. You also have to remember that seasons occur at different times in different parts of the world.

What triggers trout to spawn?

The key trigger for most trout is the weather. Rainbow trout wait when the water temperature rises slightly, while other trout species wait until the water is cold.

What age does trout spawn?

Trout are sexually mature around 2-3 years of existence. While some trout, like rainbow trout, start to spawn after their first year, most trout begin spawning after 2 or 3 years. Big fish usually have well-developed reproductive parts and can spawn multiple times.

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I've been a fisherman for over 35 years. From catching small bullheads with my grandfather at his pond to catching strippers on the backwaters of the Chattahoochee, I love to get out in the wild and have a marvelous day on the water.