Fishermen are always anxious to find out when rainbow trout spawn because there is no better time of year than spawning season for fishermen, both novice and experienced, to take to the streams and rivers.
Spawning season is an exciting time to catch these fish because they are often aggressive and feed heavily in preparation for depositing eggs.
But when do rainbow trout spawn? And what else should you know about this process? Read on to find out…
Table of Contents
- The Major Factors that Affect Rainbow Trout Spawning
- Rainbow Trout Spawn Time by State
- The Best Techniques for Fishing During Spawning Season
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The Major Factors that Affect Rainbow Trout Spawning
When fish deposit eggs into water it is what is known as the reproductive process of spawning. The factors that affect rainbow trout spawning include water temperature, stream flow, oxygen level, and the river bottom.
What Temperature do Rainbow Trout Spawn at
The ideal rainbow trout spawning temperature tends to range from a water temperature of 42°F (6°C) to 52°F (12°C). This range is key to the start of the spawn, with the eggs hatching in about three weeks.
The water temperature is key is what initiates rainbow trout spawning season. Usually, the water level has to rise slightly before the fish start to spawn. The trout wait for several weeks after eggs are fertilized to leave the Redd and vacate the nest.
How does Stream Flow Affect Spawning
Rainbow trout are migratory fish and they will travel long distances to find the correct stream flow conditions for spawning.
The stream flow that they tend to prefer is one that has a moderate to fast current with a lot of oxygenated water. This helps to speed up the spawning process and ensures that the eggs hatch quickly and successfully.
A trout stream’s flow is important to consider when trout fishing because different flows will affect the way a trout feeds. In addition, trout spawning behavior is also affected by the flow of the water.
Spawning typically occurs in areas of moderate current velocity, where the eggs can be carried downstream and keep from sticking to rocks on the bottom of the stream.
What is the Ideal Oxygen Level for Rainbow Trout When Spawning
The ideal oxygen level for rainbow trout spawning is 6-8 ppm (parts per million). Spawning usually occurs in the early morning when water temperatures are ideal.
The spawning habitat is typically found in riffles with moderate to fast current speeds and a gravel or cobblestone bottom. Spawning occurs over a period of several days, with eggs being deposited in redds (nests) that the female creates by turning on her side and digging with her tail.
The female then maneuvers her body upstream of the redd and expels her eggs. As many as 2000 eggs can be released in one spawning event.
The male fertilizes the eggs externally, he also usually guards against any activity around the nest until the eggs hatch. After hatching, the alevin remains in the Redd for several days before swimming downstream to find food.
Do Rainbow Trout Spawn in the River Bottom
The REDD is usually located in a riffle, which is a fast-flowing section of the river with boulders and rocks lying on the bottom. The trout use these rocks to clean and prepare the nest for the eggs.
Rainbow trout spawn on the river bottom. They use their fins to clean out an area for their eggs. The eggs tend to cling to any rocks in the nest. The male usually guards the eggs until they hatch.
Rainbow Trout Spawn Time by State
A common question from state to state is when rainbow trout spawn.
Each state has slightly different spawning schedules and nuances that we have highlighted. Generally, rainbow trout spawn in the late winter or early spring and are mainly native to states in the western part of the country.
- Alabama – They spawn from late February into March.
- Alaska – In Alaska, spawning can occur a little later, usually in the late spring until as late as early July depending on when water temperatures reach the ideal level.
- Arizona – Spawn in early spring, most always in streams.
- Arkansas – Spawn in the mid to late winter.
- California – It is a large and geographically diverse state so spawning can occur in spring or early summer depending on the location and stream temperatures. As an example spawning happens during the winter months in Solano County. Spring-fed streams in Shasta County can cause year-round spawning.
- Colorado – Altitude and undulating geography create a wide range of spawning times anywhere from February to May.</li
- Connecticut – Natural constraints make rainbow trout reproduction scarce in Connecticut.
- Delaware – Rainbow trout spawn in spring, typically in April.
- Florida – Rainbow trout are scarce in Florida
- Georgia – Rainbow trout spawn in the spring
- Hawaii – Spawning in Hawaii occurs from about March to September.
- Idaho – Idaho has a spring spawning season.
- Illinois – Rainbow trout in Illinois typically spawn in the spring around the first week of April.
- Indiana – Rainbow trout spawning season is in the spring.
- Iowa – Spawning takes place in a few hatcheries. Rainbow Trout do not reproduce in Iowa streams.
- Kansas – Rainbow trout are stocked annually by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
- Kentucky – Kentucky has stocked rainbow trout for multiple decades.
- Louisiana – Rainbow Trout are stocked and maintained in Louisiana by the state of Louisiana fishery department.
- Maine – Rainbow trout spawn in the spring. Maine does not have native rainbow trout, they are stocked regularly by the state agency.
- Maryland – Maryland is not the natural habitat for rainbow trout, so they spawn intermittently usually in the early spring.
- Massachusetts – Rainbow trout are spawned at several hatcheries in the state to stock lakes, streams and rivers in Massachusetts for the spring and fall.
- Michigan – Rainbow trout are typically found in northern Michigan in clear water lakes. They have been stocked fairly successfully in some southern Michigan lakes. The rainbow trout tend not to spawn in Michigan waters until they are 3 or 4 years old.
- Minnesota – Similar to Michigan, rainbow trout spawn at 3 or 4 years old. Stream dwellers migrate upstream to spawn. The lake natives use shallow areas of gravel or migrate into tributary streams. Most spawn in April.
- Montana – A slightly later spawning schedule in April-July depending on water temperatures. Eggs hatch tend to hatch in 50 days.
- Nebraska – Not a state that depends on natural reproduction, but you will occasionally see rainbow trout spawning in late winter and early spring.
- Nevada – Rainbow trout generally spawn in the spring as the water temperature rises and the days grow longer.
- New Hampshire – Rainbow trout can come a little early in New Hampshire some years, sometimes spawning in the late winter and usually reaching full spawn in the early spring.
- New Jersey – New Jersey stocks the lakes, ponds, and streams every spring with a large amount of rainbow trout.
- New Mexico – Spring spawning season.
- New York – In New York, fully grown rainbow trout tend to be found in larger lakes. There are often spring spawning runs from the large reservoirs.
- North Carolina – They spawn in the spring in small tributaries of rivers, or in pockets of lakes.
- North Dakota – It is tough for rainbow trout to spawn in North Dakota as there are constraints from the habitat. Most of the state’s rainbow trout are stocked into lakes via a hatchery.
- Ohio – There is almost no natural spawning in Ohio, so the state wildlife department stocks rainbow trout in streams and rivers that run into Lake Erie. The young trout migrate to Lake Erie after a couple of years in these streams.
- Oklahoma – The natural spawning of rainbow trout has occurred in a couple of rivers throughout the state but generally, it is fairly rare.
- Oregon – Oregon is a good state for rainbow trout spawning, there is a lot in lakes and tributaries throughout the state.
- Pennsylvania – Rainbow trout in Pennsylvania are considered spring spawners.
- Rhode Island – Rainbow trout are not native to Rhode Island but are frequently stocked.
- South Carolina – Like a lot of states spawning in South Carolina usually occurs in the late winter or early spring, most often in March.
- South Dakota – In most cases in South Dakota, spring is the spawning season for rainbow trout. Runoff usually occurs after the spawn has been completed. Geographical locations are the major factor in the timing of spawning.
- Tennessee – Rainbow Trout spawn in late winter and they hatch out in early spring.
- Texas – Texas is not a state that has a lot of rainbow trout spawn reproduction as they often struggle to survive the process in the summer. Most forms of rainbow trout come from fisheries.
- Utah – Late winter or spring, usually decided by the latitude is when rainbows spawn in Utah. Offspring migrate downstream to a lake or a larger stream after staying in the spawning habitat for a couple of years.
- Vermont – Rainbow trout spawn almost always in streams. They usually spawn during the spring and when the rising water flows and warmer temperatures take hold.
- Virginia – The majority of rainbow trout in Virginia are stocked. When spawning occurs it does so in the spring at happens at the lower ends of pools or in riffles.
- Washington – The summer runs usually happen east of the Cascades, and reach the streams in summer and eventually in the following spring come to spawning areas.
- West Virginia – In West Virginia, there are wild populations throughout the state and they rainbow trout tend to spawn in the early spring.
- Wisconsin – Wisconsin does an annual stocking of rainbow trout and it is necessary because there is little to no natural reproduction because of the geographic constraints. Wisconsin currently has three strains of rainbow trout that they maintain in hatchery systems in the state. These strains spawn at slightly different times of the year but they all occur between January and late April. The rainbow trout are stocked in streams along the Lake Michigan shoreline.
- Wyoming – Rainbow trout begin to actively spawn from April through most of May.
The Best Techniques for Fishing During Spawning Season
When fishing for rainbow trout during spawning season, it’s important to focus on areas of the river that aren’t near the redds.
Fish deep in the water, on the edges of the river, and in sections away from the spawning fish. This will help you avoid catching trout that are actively reproducing, and give them a chance to do their thing.
Casting your line into a deep pool or along a rocky shore can be a great way to catch some quality rainbows during the spawning season.
Do not fish in the mouth areas during the spawning season and try not to fish in the bodies of water where spawning actually occurs.
When you are fishing in bodies of water without outlets or inlets, if they are stocked with rainbow trout they will usually spawn in the gravel or rocky areas in the most shallow parts.
During the spawning season, it is important to provide a healthy environment for the eggs and fry by minimizing angler disturbance and keeping the water clean.
How do You Spot a Spawning Trout?
Spawning trout can be easily identified by their reddish-orange coloring. They will also be very aggressive and may attack anything that is near them. Spawning typically occurs in the early morning or late evening hours.
Best Flies for Rainbow Trout During Spawning Season
There is a lot written about what is the best fly for rainbow trout. Many factors go into it, but given the time of year and conditions trout tend to spawn in, there are a few obvious choices.
I would recommend any or all of the Indicator Kilinkhammer, the Griffiths Gnat, Quick Sight Foam Ant, Adams Parachute, the Doculator, or the Baby Fat Minnow.
Each has its positives but all should be successful. It is important to use a fly that you are comfortable with and that you can grow to like.
Best Baits for Rainbow Trout
There is no definitive answer to the best bait for rainbow trout. However, many anglers have found success using live bait such as minnows, nightcrawlers, and salmon eggs.
Other fishermen prefer to use artificial lures such as spinners and plastic worms. The key is to experiment until you find what works best for you in your area.
Best Lures for Rainbow Trout
The best lures for rainbow trout is another highly debated topic.
Spinners are a top choice for rainbow trout, as they can be worked effectively both near the surface and down deep. Some of the most popular spinners for trout include Mepps Aglia, Panther Martin, and Blue Fox Vibrax.
Spoons can also be deadly on trout, with favorites including the Silver Rat, Little Cleo, and Krocodile spoon.
Jigs are another great choice for trout, with options such as the 1/16th-ounce Gopher jig being a good starting point.
Finally, plugs are arguably the most versatile lures for rainbow trout, with a wide variety of shapes and sizes that can be effective in both rivers and lakes.
There are a lot of common questions that often come up when discussing rainbow trout and their spawning patterns. I have answered a few of the most frequent questions below.
How many eggs do rainbow trout lay?
Rainbow trout can typically lay anywhere from 20,000 to 80,000 eggs. It takes 20-80 days for the development of the embryos, usually variant on the water temperature, before hatching into alevins. These free-swimming embryos spend another 2-3 weeks down in the gravel while their fins develop.
What is the best time to catch rainbow trout?
The best time to catch rainbow trout, especially in a river, is usually early morning or evening when they are feeding the most. However, you can catch them at any time of the day.
Rainbow trout are a popular sport fish and can be caught in many different ways. However, the best season to catch rainbow trout is the spring, when water temperatures are moderate and they are more active. In the fall, the fish tend to move to deeper waters, making them harder to catch.
How long does spawning last for rainbow trout?
Spawning can last up to two months for rainbow trout. They will typically lay their eggs in a gravelly area near the water’s edge. The male will then guard the eggs until they hatch.
Can you catch rainbow trout during spawning season?
Yes, you can catch rainbow trout during the spawning season. They can be caught along the edge of the riverbed, in deep pots, under banks, and in parts of the water not near the redds. However, it is important to remember to leave the spawning trout the chance to reproduce.
If you’re looking to get into rainbow trout fishing, it’s important to know when and where they spawn. This comprehensive guide has all the information you need on spawning in different locations – now all that’s left is getting out there and trying your luck!
Please leave any thoughts or questions that you have below in the comment section!