Spotting Redds and Spawning Trout by John McPherson

April 5, 2017

Spotting Redds and Spawning Trout by John McPherson

 For the last few weeks Rainbow Trout have been spawning in the rivers around Southwest Montana. During the spawn you will regularly hear about the term "redds," from other anglers or from reading our fishing reports. If you have been unsure of this term and what it means in the fishing world, here is what we have been talking about over the last month.

 A redd is where a fish has turned onto its side and used its tail to clear a spot in the gravel bottom to spawn. They are usually round or oval in shape and lighter in color than the surrounding bottom. At first they can be a little tricky to spot but once you find one and see what they look like you will start to notice them very easily, especially if a fish is sitting on it in full spawn. One thing that helps you find and avoid them is the fish will make them in very specific areas. These areas are known as spawning zones.  Spawning zones are found where you have shallower water with a slower current and a gravelly bottom. Side channels are one place you will commonly find these environments. Another spot that you will find the same river conditions are the insides of turns in the river where the current is naturally slower and gravel collects over time.  Regardless of where you find them, they should be avoided whether it be on foot or dropping anchor in a drift boat.

 The main reason that we don't want to fish over or around redd's is that since the early 1970's Montana hasn't stocked trout into our rivers. We allow the fish to naturally reproduce, giving us a much healthier and stronger population of fish than other states that do stock fish. Hatchery raised fish are much weaker and genetically inferior to the wild born fish you'll find here.  Trout are already stressed out from the act of spawning, females will typically lose up to one third of their body weight while males can lose up to half of their body weight, they don't need the added stress of us trying to catch them on top of them trying to repopulate our fisheries.  A female in her prime can dump a few thousand eggs for 3 to 4 years. While that sounds like a lot of eggs, the truth is that most of her eggs will never survive and grow to maturity, it's only a very small percentage that will survive to adulthood.

So please leave redds alone, there are other areas of the river you can fish that can be very productive during the fish spawn.  Moving downstream of a spawning area will still be rewarding fishing. This is where you can find smart Brown Trout hanging out waiting to eat stray eggs that wash downstream. Thanks for helping to protect our future fish and tight lines to everyone! 

You can also check interesting fishing tips on Bonfire Bob. Visit

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