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What You'll Catch

What We Catch

Rainbow Trout

The rainbow trout is one of the most respected and sought after of all game fishes. Rainbow trout have the typical streamlined salmonid form, although body shape and coloration vary widely. Color of the back varies from blue-green to olive, with a reddish-pink band along each side. The belly is typically white and small black spots are present over the back, upper fins, and tail. 

Adult rainbows usually seek out the shallow, gravel riffles in late winter, or early spring to spawn. Female use their tails to prepare redds where they deposit up to 8,000 eggs that are fertilized by a male, and covered with gravel. Depending on water temperature incubation can take from a few weeks to months. After hatching the fry assemble in groups and seek shelter along shore lines. 

Opportunistic feeders, rainbows feed on variety of food items ranging from small insects to crayfish. Stream trout often feed heavily on terrestrial insects. Rocky streams produce a many aquatic invertebrates that are also fed upon. In lakes and streams crustaceans, snails, leeches, small fish, and fish eggs also serve as food. 

Rainbows are popular with anglers for their willingness to take a large number of baits and lures. Add that they are easily reared to catchable sizes; rainbows are stocked heavily in many states to offer recreational fishing opportunities for many.

Cutbow Trout

Cutbows are fertile hybrids of rainbow trout and one of the cutthroat species. Where rainbows and cutthroats occur naturally together, these hybrids rarely occur. However, with the introduction of rainbows into native cutthroat populations, hybridization often occurs and is view as a serious threat to cutthroat populations due to the loss of genetic integrity.

Depending on the rainbow-cutthroat mix, these hybrids may take on markings very close to either parentage, or any of numerous blends. Typically they will have a bit of the orange/red slash on the throat that is so distinctive of cutthroats and often with a hint of the red stripe down the side that is distinctive of rainbows.

These hybrids can show in most any water that native cutthroats exit and where rainbows exist, the clear, cold water of mountain streams and lakes. Cutbows are also intentionally stocked in some states to provide anglers with another fishing opportunity. The life cycle, habitat requirements, and food preferences are the same as their parents, which are essentially the same for both species, as they are very similar fish.


Cutthroat Trout

Cutthroat trout encompass large group of related salmonoids that populated most of the western United States. Some of the better known species include the Bonneville, Lahontan, Rio Grande, Colorado River, Snake River, Greenback, and Yellowstone to name a few. Due to a large number of factors, including introduction of “exotic” species and habitat degradation, many cutthroat species today are in danger of being lost, and even some populations that are healthy have been genetically degraded due to stockings of rainbows and other cutthroat species.

As the name implies, the bright reddish-orange slash on the throat is a major distinguishing mark of these numerous species. Many of the species are so similar morphologically that only expects are able to tell them apart and even then sometime genetic testing is necessary to conclusively differentiate between them.

Cutthroat trout inhabit relatively clear, cold streams, rivers, and lakes. Their preferred temperatures range from 40 to 60 degrees. These spring spawners typically build their redds in gravel riffles after the river flow have abated.

Intensive harvest by anglers has affected the abundance and size structure of most species. This is in part a result for the readiness of cutthroat to take a fly or lure, making them rather popular with anglers.


Brown Trout

A close relative of the Atlantic salmon, brown trout were brought to North American waters from Europe. Brown trout have thrived in America, having been introduced into 45 of the 50 states. They are one of the more popular trout species, possibly due their reputation as a more difficult fish to catch, and in part due to their higher tolerance for warmer waters than other trout species.

Brown trout are frequently dark to golden brown along the back, sometimes with brassy appearance. Their yellowish sides are marked with dark brown to black spots, mixed with orange to red spots often haloed in pale blue. The belly is typically whitish. Breeding males often develop a hooked jaw.

Brown trout spawn are fall spawners, starting in late October, sometimes extending into December. Redds are typically dug by the females in gravelly riffles. After the eggs are fertilized the female covers them with fine gravel, then fry hatch the following spring. The diet of adult brown trout includes insects and their larvae, crustaceans, mollusks, amphibians, small rodents and other fish. Brown trout often actively feed during the day, as long as they are undisturbed. Larger fish typically become more active at night.

Brown Trout in Colorado

The brown trout was first brought into this state in the 1890s land is now abundant from high mountain streams to broad rivers flowing onto the plains. These fish can be difficult to catch, but many anglers have good success during their fall spawning runs. A large dark spotting pattern and reddish dots can help anglers distinguish these fish from rainbows and cutthroats.

Above courtesy of Colorado Division of Wildlife Colorado Records

Kept 36.4 inches, 30 lb 8 oz Released 38 inches

Qualifying length for a Colorado Master Angler Award for Brown Trout is 22 inches. 

Brook Trout

Brook trout are actually a char, in the same family as lake trout and bull trout. Originally their range was limited to eastern North America, but through stocking programs they are now found throughout the west also. One of the more brightly colored char, they typically have a dark olive to blackish back transitioning to a whitish belly. Distinctive vermiform (wormlike) markings cover the back. The lower fins have a distinctive white edge, bordered by black and the remaining fin being a reddish-orange. Their sides have red spots, often with a bluish halo. These slender fish also have a square tail. While brookies are frequently viewed as a small fish, seldom getting much over 12 inches, the world record brook trout is more than 14 pounds.

Brook trout are fall spawners, generally in October and November. They seek riffle areas with gravel in streams, spring areas or shores currents for spawning. The females use their tails to sweep out a redd where she’ll lay 100 – 400 eggs. Brookie eggs require continuous oxygenation. Depending on water temperatures, the eggs will incubate 2 to 3 months before hatching. Compared to many fish, brook trout are sensitive as to their environment, requiring clean, cold highly oxygenated (50 to 60 degrees) water, be it streams or lakes.

Brook trout are voracious feeders consuming zooplankton, crustaceans, worms, fish, terrestrial insects, and aquatic insects. They frequently feed on whatever is most readily available. This feature makes them extremely popular with anglers and they will readily take a wide variety of flies and lures.

Brook Trout in Colorado

An entry to Colorado in the late 1800s, the brook trout feeds on aquatic and terrestrial insects and will rise to a large range of small lures, baits and flies. Brook trout have white spots (worm-shaped on top) on a dark background with tri-colored outlined fins (orange, black and white). This prolific fish often becomes overpopulated and can out-compete other trout. They are typically found in higher elevation lakes, beaver dams and streams.

Above Courtesy of Colorado Division of Wildlife Colorado

Record Kept 7 lb 10 oz Released 26 inches

Colorado Master Angler Award qualifying length for Brook Trout is 16"

Lake Trout

The largest of the char family, lake trout, also referred to as Mackinaw, can reach enormous proportions, in the range of 50 inches and 100 pounds. Lake trout are mostly gray above, with a white belly and creamy mottling on the back, turning in to spots along the sides. Their tail is distinctly forked.

Mackinaw, are deep, cold-water fish. During the spring and fall, when the water is still in the 50’s, lakers may be shallow. Lake trout are roamers, moving widely and may go several hundred feet deep. They prefer 50 degrees waters. Mature lake trout feed primarily on fish. Younger fish will feed on plankton, crustaceans, and insects.

These fall spawners use the same spawning beds. They deposit their eggs after dark, often on shoals. While they may clean their spawning area, they do not build nest like most salmoniods. Sexual maturity occurs at 6-7 years of age, for this long lived fish, whose life span can exceed 25 years.

 Northern Pike

Northern Pike

Pike have an elongated body and head, with a broad flat snout is broad and flat, and are colored olive green, shading into yellow to white along the belly. These toothy critters have jaws, roof of the mouth, tongue, and gillrakers covered with numerous sharp teeth. Males and females are similar in appearance but females live longer and attain greater size. Northerns can reach large sizes with fish to 60 inches and 50 plus pounds possible.

These top end predators will readily take big prey, upwards of one third their body length and are not particular about what they’ll eat. Pike can be found in a variety of waters having a tolerance for many conditions. As ambush predators, pike typically lie in wait for prey, showing high acceleration as they strike.

Spawning occurs in spring soon after the ice goes out, typically in the grassy margins of lake shores, slow-moving streams, or sloughs. The eggs are dropped to the bottom where they adhere to grass, rocks, or other debris. The young pike feed on small invertebrates and quickly move on to larger prey like small fish.

Pike eggs and new hatchlings (which stay inactive, attached to vegetation for their first few days of life) fall prey in large numbers to larger pike, perch, minnows, waterfowl, water mammals, and even some insects. Larger pike have two primary enemies – lampreys, and man. Spawning adult northern pike, exposing themselves recklessly in the shallows, are vulnerable to bears, dogs, and other large carnivores. 

Kohanee Salmon

Kokanee are the land-locked sockeye salmon. Unable to migrate to the ocean, kokanee rarely reach the proportions of their ocean run brethren. Their identifying characteristics are very similar to sockeye. Prior to spawn kokanee are a silvery sided fish with a green or blue back and white tips on the ventral and anal fins, and little or no spotting. Spawning males develop a bright to olive green coloring on the heads, bright red body coloration, often a hooked jaw and a small, but obvious hump. Spawning females exhibit a less brilliant coloration than males, the jaw is “normal” and they retain their prespawn shape. Their size at maturity is typically 12-18 inches.

Kokanee live in a lakes most of their lives, doing best in well oxygenated, open waters that don’t exceed 60 degrees. They feed primarily on zooplankton, small fish and insects are occasionally taken. Their diet can change throughout the year based upon food availability.

Kokanee are most readily available to anglers during spawn, which occurs from early August through late December. Were self-sustaining populations exist they run up streams or rivers after 2-4 years in open waters. Were stocked, they return to their release point. Females build redds on gravel bars, with both sexes defending the nest. Once the eggs are laid and fertilized Once fertilized, the eggs are buried beneath the gravel. Most kokanee die within a week after spawning. Fry emerge in April through June, then move downstream to mature in lakes or reservoirs. In many regions kokanee stocks are maintained through stocking programs.

Kokanee in Colorado

Kokanee (land-locked Pacific sockeye salmon) are suited to the large, fluctuating mountain reservoirs of Colorado. These silver fish with black spots on the upper half of their bodies can be found swimming in compact schools feeding on zooplankton, a food source unaffected by the drawing down of reservoirs. They turn reddish in color and males develop a “hook jaw” during the fall spawning season. Trolling with cowbells at medium depths provides angling success. Special snagging seasons are offered on some areas during spawning runs, and provide much of the catch for these delicious salmon. Kokanee die after spawning.

Colorado records

Kept angling 27.5 inches, 6 lb 13 oz
Kept snagging 27 inches 7 lb 5oz
Released 28 inches
Qualifying length for a Colorado Master Angler Award is 20 inches.

All information, pictures and descriptions are taken from the Colorado Fish Explorer. Visit their site HERE