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Shawnny3August 3rd, 2010, 6:57 pm
Moderator
Pleasant Gap, PA

Posts: 1197
Tonight I caught a 10-inch tiger trout, my first ever, on Spring Creek just downstream of Bellefonte. Among the several hundred fish I've caught or observed caught in that area, I've never seen a brook trout, but I have limited experience in that stretch of water. Most of my experience on Spring is quite a bit upstream of that, but it has been my home stream for 7 years and I have never caught or seen a brookie in it. I have a few ideas as to how the tiger trout could have gotten there, but I'd like to hear from others first who may have more experience in that area than I do.

By the way, Flatstick was with me and immediately confirmed the I.D. on the fish (I knew what it was when it was still 10 feet away from me - it was that obvious). He had a camera on his phone, but as he fumbled for it in his vest I placed the fish back in the water, where it unfortunately came off my line. But we are both certain of the I.D., in case anyone is inclined to doubt it.

-Shawn
Jewelry-Quality Artistic Salmon Flies, by Shawn Davis
www.davisflydesigns.com
GONZOAugust 3rd, 2010, 10:43 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
I have a few ideas as to how the tiger trout could have gotten there, but I'd like to hear from others first who may have more experience in that area than I do.


Shawn, it might have been an escapee from the hatchery at Bellefonte. If they are not raising any tigers, then it probably resulted from an escaped male brookie fertilizing the eggs of a female brown.
Shawnny3August 4th, 2010, 6:28 am
Moderator
Pleasant Gap, PA

Posts: 1197
Those were two possibilities I was considering, Gonzo. I also wondered whether any of the tribs coming into that area of the stream might contain brookies, but I don't know of any in the few most likely candidates. I'm considering contacting the hatchery and asking if they raise tigers and if they are aware of any significant numbers of tiger or brookie escapees in the past few years. I also have a few friends who have fished area tribs their whole lives, and I like to ask them if they've ever found wild brookies nearby.

The spot I caught the fish was several miles downstream of the hatchery, so one way or the other it is probably a very rare fish, which makes me pretty excited about it. Not that I can take any real credit - my brother outfished me badly yesterday, and I caught the tiger in spite of a late hook-set, after which I bumbled it off my line when the other fly I was fishing got caught on my hand as I was attempting to keep the fish well hydrated prior to getting a pic. The event was not exactly poetry, but it was memorable, to be sure.

To those on this site, if you would like to share any specific information with me about brookies or lack thereof in the smaller tribs of this stream, please limit the info to PMs. Then again, if someone else were asking me for that same information, I'd politely decline before burying his body in an adjacent field. So I'm not expecting much...

-Shawn
Jewelry-Quality Artistic Salmon Flies, by Shawn Davis
www.davisflydesigns.com
OldredbarnAugust 4th, 2010, 7:54 am
Novi, MI

Posts: 2159
To those on this site, if you would like to share any specific information with me about brookies or lack thereof in the smaller tribs of this stream, please limit the info to PMs. Then again, if someone else were asking me for that same information, I'd politely decline before burying his body in an adjacent field. So I'm not expecting much...


Shawn,

This would be really funny if I didn't believe you meant it :). We can mark the grave with one of my old Sherwood hockey sticks I've been saving in the impossible dream I'll ever play again (without ending up in divorce court) or they may just end up as tomato steaks...

Spence

I have seen some pictures of Tigers on Gates' fishing report over the years, but I have never seen one myself...They are pretty damn rare even in a river system that has Browns & Brooks in all three of the main branches and some Bows even in the Main...The sad thing there Shawny is you have used up all your Mojo now and won't be winning the Lotto any time soon...
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
SlateDrake9August 4th, 2010, 8:52 am
Potter County, PA

Posts: 144
My wife has caught tigers above Benner Springs and below Rock within the last year.

There have been a good many tiger trout stocked in Pennsylvania this year. Yours was most likely either a hatchery escape or moved up from Bald Eagle Creek. Wild tigers aren't that likely in a stream that doesn't have a really stong brookie population.

As for brookie escapes, back when hurricane Ivan tore through our area, I think in 2005, it flooded the hatchery at Benner Springs. Tons and tons of brookies escaped into Spring Creek. I fished to "bait balls" of them for a few months after the great escape. None over 7 inches, but on a super light rod, they were fun. Then they pretty much disappeared. I heard from a few good sources that the PFBC recaptured a lot of them. I'm sure the resident browns ate a good many too, as it was fatten up before the spawn and winter time. There were a lot of golden rainbows that escaped too.

I've caught a couple brook trout on Spring since then (last one this Feb.), all around a foot or so. Most likely hatchery escapes or moved in from Bald Eagle. Spring's "native" brookie population can hardly be called a population, thanks to Penn State and a few other industrial problems the stream has faced.
Fishing with bait is like swearing in church.
-- Slate Drake
LastchanceAugust 4th, 2010, 10:24 am
Portage, PA

Posts: 382
I caught one several years ago while fishing the Savage River in MD. It was 13 inches and we figured it must have come up from the Potomac River. It was a very strong fish. It tried to wrestle a beer from me. I opened up a small can of good old PA Whoop Ass on him.

My best guess is that the Spring Creek Tiger is an escapee from Benner.
GONZOAugust 4th, 2010, 12:15 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Shawn,

Because B.J. (SlateDrake9) reports other tiger trout caught in the area recently, I assume that one or another of the hatcheries must be producing them. Due to the low viability of this cross in the wild and the unusual spawning circumstances that produce it in the first place, the probability that a hatchery was the source is very strong compared to scenarios involving instream spawning (whether from a wild or hatchery brook trout). One tributary of Spring does have a wild brook trout population (that's not "secret" information), but I don't think it significantly increases the likelihood of this being a streambred fish. (However, given the wild brown trout population in the rest of the Spring Creek watershed, perhaps the area around that trib might be a place to look for the wild variety.)

At any rate, as an "intergeneric" cross (Salmo X Salvelinus), tigers are interesting fish. Even as a hatchery product, I like them better than the clownish PA "golden rainbows." But then again, they don't serve the state's purpose of creating a flashing yellow "Trout Stocked Here!" beacon. ;)

If you'd like to see some cool patterns/colors on hatchery tigers that have "colored up," click the "tiger trout" button on the website below, and check out the slideshow at the bottom of that page:
http://www.bouldermountainflyfishing.com/
LastchanceAugust 4th, 2010, 2:48 pm
Portage, PA

Posts: 382
I agree with you Gonzo. We'd be better off if they stocked tiger trout instead of those gold bows. They seem like very strong fish to me.
Bruce
GONZOAugust 4th, 2010, 3:20 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Bruce,

Yeah, at least they don't look like they were reared in the wastewater of a nuclear powerplant. (Pardon me, I'm sure there are folks who find those day-glo rainbows attractive--there's no accounting for taste.) However, I assume that tigers must be pretty expensive hatchery products. Given all the cutbacks and other hatchery-related problems, I'm a bit surprised that the state is still raising them.

In some ways, I do prefer tigers to some of the other hatchery products. If you have to stock something, one advantage is that they don't further dilute viable wild populations. Of course, that is also an argument used to promote the stocking of "triploid" blob-trout, and I'd hate to see us go (further) down that road.


Spence,

Unfortunately, the politics of the intrenched "hatchery system" make it very difficult for even the most well-intentioned and wild-trout-conscious managers and biologists to make the kind of changes that wild trout lovers would like to see. For the most part, I do realize how difficult that must be. If I had their job, I'd probably go crazy (crazier?). Who am I kidding? I wouldn't last a week.

Honestly, I often wonder how states like Montana managed to overcome the trout-stocking syndrome. It surely took some political courage, but is anyone sorry that they did? Many PA anglers think of Montana as a paradise, but we can't seem to overcome the addiction to stocked trout. Perhaps, like junkies, we're just afraid to face the withdrawal pains. Or perhaps we just don't believe that maintaining suitable, sustainable wild trout habitat is worth the effort. And, no doubt about it, it does require quite an effort. Don't get me wrong, PA does have many wonderful wild trout waters, and I'm very grateful for that, but I can't help wondering (dreaming, really) about the "what ifs."
RleePAugust 4th, 2010, 5:33 pm
One Mile South of Lake LeBoeuf

Posts: 228
>>Honestly, I often wonder how states like Montana managed to overcome the trout-stocking syndrome.>>

I think it almost has to have something to do with the ability of Montana streams to produce a fishery that is not only superior from the viewpoint of the wild trout enthusiast, but also at least commensurate in quality in the eyes of the garden variety harvesting angler.

Montana can pull this off. For the most part, Wisconsin is also well on the way to being able to do likewise. I may be behind the curve here, but as I recall, Michigan has pretty much done it as well.

The hard question we native Pennsylvanians have to ask ourselves is what would a fishery where every stream capable of supporting wild trout, say, at a Class B or better level (> 20 kg/ha wild trout) was no longer stocked look like in terms of average fish size and overall fish abundance, particularly if stringent harvest regs were not imposed on every one? Would it satisfy the early season harvest oriented angler? Montana and Wisconsin can get away with this because the perceived change in fishery quality to the incidental angler is pretty minimal. As much as I love PA and its wild trout streams, I'm not sure it would work for us. So many infertile freestones that can produce scads of trout, but far fewer of size than the sort of density PA anglers are used to getting from the white truck brigade.

That is to say, this can be done in some states without radically redefining what trout fishing is. I'm not sure PA is one of them.
RleePAugust 4th, 2010, 5:41 pm
One Mile South of Lake LeBoeuf

Posts: 228
So far as the Spring Creek tigers, I'd think they'd almost have to be hatchery escapees. There are (or were at any rate) a number of Bald Eagle tribs above the Spring Creek junction with pretty robust brook trout populations. But I have a hard time seeing brookies from these creeks swimming down through the soup the Bald Eagle becomes not far below Port Matilda and then up Spring Creek to fertilize brown trout eggs.

I could be wrong though. I have a long history of that...:)
GONZOAugust 4th, 2010, 7:53 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
I'm not sure PA is one of them.


You're right, Lee, and I'm not suggesting for a moment that PA could be just like Montana if we'd just stop stocking. But the "early season" demand for numbers of artificially large trout in waters that can't produce or sustain them is part and parcel of the hatchery-driven cycle. Only a hatchery system can create or satisfy that kind of demand in a state like PA, and it can only be sustained by continuing to provide it. One one hand, the numbers of casual anglers and the license fees they generate would unquestionably decline if all of that went away. On the other hand, a goodly portion of those fees goes primarily to sustain that artificial demand through hatcheries and stocking. PA anglers are addicted to stocked trout and PA managers are addicted to anglers who are addicted to stocked trout. It is a difficult cycle to break, especially if that's what most people seem to want.

However, that artificially-driven demand is also what creates the practice of stocking on top of viable wild trout populations and private stocking on sections of Class A Wild Trout Streams. It also compels those addicted to stocking to cry for more and more stocking on wild trout waters, partly because some of those waters just don't produce fish that are as big as they would like.

I don't deny that some of this may be inevitable and necessary in a state like PA. As a result, however, it is hard not to feel that the license fees of those who like wild trout go, in part, to support and sustain a system that damages or dilutes the wild trout potential of some streams. It is also hard not to feel that license fees of catch-and-release anglers effectively subsidize that put-and-take demand in a way that seems self-defeating. (For example, consider what it costs to produce just one of those 20" yellow stocking beacons.) None of this is easy to sort out, and I don't envy the biologists, managers, and commissioners who have to juggle the conflicts that result, not to mention trying to do this with next-to-nothing in the way of public funds and a staff that is stripped to the bone.

I also recognize that the combination of stocking demand and PA's stream access laws (or lack thereof) creates a frustrating "Catch 22." Whenever the state attempts to stop stocking, even when a stream qualifies for Class A, posting often follows. As a result, stocking becomes one of the only tools that the state can use to try to keep waters that flow through private land "open" and available to anglers.

I'm a lifelong PA angler and proud of it. I don't expect any of these issues to be resolved anytime soon, if ever. Instead, I expect that environmental degradation driven by things like fracking the hell out of the Marcellus Shale will probably outweigh many of these petty wild trout "management" concerns, or even make them pretty much moot in some places. Some of that might also be inevitable and perhaps necessary, but it will also be sad. Like I said, consideration of the "what ifs" is mostly just dreaming on my part. Old anglers and their dreams keep company with wild trout all the time.
DryflyAugust 4th, 2010, 9:39 pm
rochester mn

Posts: 133
Minnesota is 85% wild. Nearly all browns and brooks are wild. One thing I credit to the MnDNR is habitat work, where degraded streams are restored and with that natural reproduction picks up.

Being from mn has tainted my perception of rainbows as pale ugly rubber trout dumped in april. Now Steelhead...
GONZOAugust 4th, 2010, 9:45 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Montana...if I wasn't such a stubborn and masochistic old cuss, I'd probably just move. :)
Jmd123August 4th, 2010, 10:28 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 1685
To be brutally honest, I once used to fish a stocked stream in south-central MI. However, the stocking took place when the fish were the size of fingerlings - NOT catchable size - and by the time these brownies got to be a foot or more in length with their lemon-yellow bellies and stark black and red-spotted sides you just couldn't tell they hadn't been born in the stream...

In Oregon, my ex-wife & I did a rafting/fishing trip on the MacKenzie River outside of Eugene for redband rainbows. We caught a bunch of stockers - which we kept - that looked like stockers, dull and unexciting but OK for the frying pan, and I caught one wild fish, which was bluntly obvious from the fully developed fins and crisply spotted, iridescent silver-purple sides, and let that one go...

They're prety much wild & streambred in my favorite northern MI trout streams, including the 11" brookie that I caught (and released) back in June...

Jonathon
No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
GONZOAugust 4th, 2010, 11:07 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
In all fairness to my state and its fishing, Jonathon, I should probably add that 80-90% of the trout that I catch in an average season here in PA are wild. It could easily be 100%, but that's mostly a matter of where you choose to fish. Unfortunately, when I want to catch some of the truly large wild trout that live in one of my favorite watersheds--which is a wonderful producer of wild brown and brook trout from its smallest tribs to where the big water joins the Delaware--I sometimes have to work my way through about a dozen stump-finned stockers before connecting with one.

If I could just bring myself to kill and eat some of the stockers, I'd be doing the wild fish a favor. I'd have no problem doing that, but I've never been a fan of the taste of stocked trout. Bleecchh! (Hey, Jonathon, I thought you were a vegetarian. Were those veggie trout? Or are you one of those 70-80% vegetarians like Eric?)

Trust me, I'm not complaining about the fishing in my state...well, I guess I really was, but it was just a passing mood. I think I'm over it now. :)
SlateDrake9August 5th, 2010, 5:30 am
Potter County, PA

Posts: 144
Interseting conversation and points made. I love fishing for wild trout. I live in the heart of of PA's best freestone fishing. Many times I love fishing for the brookies, but sometimes I want to catch a fish that averages bigger than 5 inches. So, to do this consistently, if there was no stocking in PA, I'd have to drive 2 hours each way to get to one of the relatively few truly fertile streams in the state that sustain a population of numerous 12 inch plus wild browns. That sounds like hell to me.

But that said, I don't support stocking over scientifically proven wild trout populations, be it 5 inch brookies or foot long browns.

As for the idea of keeping the stockers as a means to help the wild fish. I think of it this way. If I kept the stocked fish then some guy that regularly keeps fish would have less stockers to keep and would probably be catching and keeping wild fish.

You also have to remember that our wild fish populations (not native populations) came from stockers that reproduced in the streams. If it wasn't for stocking, Spring Creek would probably be as barren as many of the freestoners in the southern part of the state, as would the Little J (which I'm still not convienced isn't mostly stocked browns). And most of our freestoners in NC PA would only be populated with 5 inch brookies and not the browns that can be found.
Fishing with bait is like swearing in church.
-- Slate Drake
SlateDrake9August 5th, 2010, 5:33 am
Potter County, PA

Posts: 144
PS

As for the rainbows (both golden and grey slab variety), I wish the state would exterminate them all and cease stocking them. They're garbage fish in my opinion. Only thing that seperates them from carp is the fact that they'll rise to a dry fly pretty consistently.
Fishing with bait is like swearing in church.
-- Slate Drake
OldredbarnAugust 5th, 2010, 8:50 am
Novi, MI

Posts: 2159
Being from mn has tainted my perception of rainbows as pale ugly rubber trout dumped in april. Now Steelhead...


Dryfly,

We need you to tie in to one of those Madison river rocketship rainbows, say between 18 & 24"...It just may change your religion...:)I promise you it will at least give you a momentary feeling of what "wild" really is...Hang on, man!!! There will be a couple moments there where you will be wondering if your tackles up to it. Or for that matter if you yourself are up to it.

A friend of mine took me to the Boyne river here in Michigan years back and it's known for it's big fish runs...I sat there and watched a large hen over her redd and a couple young bucks courting her. I must admit it was very interesting to observe. We really weren't fishing but he grabbed a rod and headed downstream, he said, to play around. I was standing on a bridge when I spotted a rise and grabbed the 4wt and a box of dries...Cast after cast I caught these 6-7" baby Bows as they rose from out of this dark pool below the bridge to hit my fly...Some guy leaned over the bridge to ask me how I was doing and I told him what was up and the fun I was having...He laughed and told me, "Hell! The hatchery truck was here just last week...Those are this years plants of steelhead..." The storied dry fly fisherman of the mighty Au Sable may have actually blushed.

Just a few yards upstream from this bridge was a dam and the dead end for these fish...I'm told when things are on here guys are asshole to elbow around this pool below the dam...It's not the glorious runs of Alaska or Montana that's for sure...It's a piss poor end to a fish who's genectics and history makes us dream of epic battles, in a sporting manner, between angler and a wild beast...Instead it's diminished somehow and simply yanked from the stream with some of the lowest forms of fishing...If we can call this fishing. It has more of a slaughter house feel to me...

Spence

"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
DryflyAugust 5th, 2010, 11:12 am
rochester mn

Posts: 133
Spence, Ironically I was just out in in Yellowstone and fished the madison. Well I got skunked completely. Granted it was not a fishing trip, but I tried hard enough to catch a fish. Damn slough creek cutthroat...

The driftless has wild tigers, haven't caught one yet myself.
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