There is something special about the autumn season. In Pennsylvania by October the trees are glowing with brilliant color; add low humidity, crisp mornings and you have a great combination for doing anything outdoors. For me that’s definitely fly fishing.
For the trout, it’s also a special time because it triggers their appetite to stock-up on protein for the winter. Another even more important trigger clicks for Brown and Brook trout – spawning season. By September our friends are eagerly looking to spawn and by October/November they are on full blast.
This heighten level of feeding can make for a lot of fun but please do not harvest wild trout during the spawn. Give these guys a chance to reproduce and continue the lineage. Think about it, you don’t want to harvest next year’s fun. In fact always let the wild ones go. There’s plenty of stockers to be had if you really want to take one home.
Now with that said, there are lots of places that hold stocked trout. Take a look at the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat website for streams and lakes in your area. Many of these waters contain holdovers from the spring or previous year. This gets a little tricky when the water contains both stocked and wild fish so check with the PFBC website or your regional fish and boat commissioner. There are many good books on the subject.
So how to determine if it is a stocked or wild trout. Some times not easy, but usually not too difficult. Start with fin distortion, by examining the fins you can make an accurate determination. Hatchery trout grow-up in concrete raceways, and holding tanks, because of this man-made environment the fins, specifically the rays, get rubbed off.
Next coloration. Usually hatchery trout will have a pale color to them for about a year. Why is it not easy some of the times to make a determination, because the longer a hatchery trout adapts to its wild surroundings the less apparent it will become that it is a hatchery trout. Most anglers agree that the fins never come back completely. This is why you should key in on that first. What if you never caught a wild trout to know the difference? Well first off, I encourage you to go and do that post or pre-spawn. It will be an enlightening experience. But for now, while you’re reading this check out the photos below.