Apache Trout fish identification, its habitats, characteristics, fishing methods.
The Apache trout (Oncorhynchus gilae apache) once occupied approximately 600 miles of stream habitat in the upper Salt River, San Francisco River, and Little Colorado River watersheds above 5,900-feet elevation in east-central Arizona. Overfishing, habitat degradation, and the stocking of nonnative salmonids decrease the population. The main risk to the Apache trout is its easy hybridization with the Rainbow trout. Rainbow, Brook, Cutthroat, and Brown trout out-competed Apache trout for limited food and cover, preyed upon the young native trout, and began cross-breeding with Apache trout (compromising the genetic purity of each species). Today, due to recovery process, the number of Apache trout has increased in remaining habitat and of self-sustaining populations (a population that is characterized by presence of multiple age classes and evidence of periodic natural reproduction). The Apache trout is now present on the Apache-Sitgreaves, Coronado, and Kaibab National Forests, on Fort Apache Reservation, on Arizona Stateís Black River Lands, as well as on private land. Releases at sites outside of the Apache troutís historic range (streams in the Pinaleno Mountains and in North Canyon on the Kaibab plateau) were conducted in order to provide angling opportunities.
The Apache trout or Arizona trout, Oncorhynchus gilae apache, is a species of freshwater fish in the salmon family Salmonidae. It natively lives in clear, cool streams in the White Mountains that flow through coniferous forests and marshes, but has been introduced into several lakes in the area. Apache trout stocked in the Pinaleno Mountains and on Mount Graham, farther west in Arizona, are reproducing. It is one of only two trout native to Arizona, the other being the Gila trout (Oncorhynchus gilae).
The Apache trout is distinguished by its deep, compressed body with a large dorsal fin. The Apache trout measures in length from 6 to 24 inches, and weighs from 6 oz to 6 lbs in hatcheries and lakes; however, most wild Apache trout are less than 9 inches in length, a reflection of the small stream habitats where they live. They have an olive-yellow body, with a yellow or golden belly. Apache trout have medium-sized irregular dark spots that are evenly spaced across the body, head and that may extend below the lateral line and onto the dorsal and tail fins. The top of its head and back are dark olive in color, lower part of head orange to yellow-orange. Fins are tipped with a white or orange color. Two black spots are located horizontally on the eye fore and aft of the pupil, creating a black band through the eyes, due to two small black dots on either side of the pupil. There is a cutthroat mark below the lower jaw, ranging in color from yellow to gold.
The Apache is one of Arizonaís two native trout species and is the Arizona state fish. Dorsal, anal and pelvic fins are white tipped with dark, bold spots on dorsal and tail fin. An orange to red cutthroat mark is usually present under lower jaw. Their body is moderately stout and compressed. Pelvic, dorsal and anal fins white-tipped; dorsal fin large; adipose fin present. Lateral line complete, 112-172 scales (2 rows above lateral line), and 32-40 scales above the lateral line (origin of dorsal fin to lateral line). A red or pink lateral band is typically absent. A yellow cutthroat mark is usually present and basibranchial teeth are occasionally present. They have 58-61 Vertebrae number and 21-41 pyloric caecae.
Inhabits clear and cool mountain creeks, mountain streams above 7,500 feet (2000 m) elevation. They are dependent on pool development, shade-giving stream-side vegetation, and undercut banks for cover and are capable of tolerating a range of temperatures. Trout need clear, cold water, and their waters began to cloud up with silt and to warm up as the shading vegetation was stripped away. Prey of Apache trout consists mostly of invertebrates, which are typically abundant in healthy streams. Apache trout often use cover in the form of woody debris, pools, rocks/boulders, undercut streambanks, or overhanging vegetation at stream margins. Apache trout eat both aquatic and terretrial insects like caddisflies, grasshoppers and mayflies by taking them from the surface.
Found only in White Mountain lakes and streams on forest and reservation lands. The Department is increasing their efforts in stocking Apache trout in Arizona and has an active recovery and management plan in place. The Apache trout is stocked from Silver Creek Hatchery in the summer months into the Little Colorado River near Greer, the Black River and Lee Valley Lake.
Early methods of livestock grazing, timber harvest and other land uses also impacted the habitat of these once pristine coldwater streams. Land use practices removed the stabilizing, shading effects of sedges, grasses and willows along stream banks, ultimately causing erosion and general habitat degradation. These impacts led to widened streambeds, increased stream temperatures, clogged gravel spawning areas, and reduced mayfly and caddis fly populations, the preferred trout food. Reservoir construction for irrigation and recreation and flood control altered stream flow patterns, creating artificial barriers to natural fish migrations. Apache trout require clear, cold, gravel-bottomed streams and could not withstand these changes.
The Apache trout spawns from March to the middle of June when the daily water temperature exceeds 42 to 46 F (6-7 C). Female mature occur at 2 or 3 years of age, male mature a year before female. It takes up to 3 years for the fish to fully mature. One female may produce from 70 to 4000 eggs in redds (nests) at the down-stream ends of pools. In wild stream populations the lower egg amount occur and the higher counts usually occur in hatcheries. The eggs hatch after 30 days.
Apache trout typically spawn in the winter and early spring. Females excavate redds (nests) in the gravel, after fertilization the eggs are covered with gravel. Apache trout are capable of hybridizing with rainbow trout which has greatly reduced the range of pure strain Apaches.
They are easily caught fishing nymphs, wet or dry flies, worms or salmon eggs. Will also take small spoons and spinners. The same techniques used to catch rainbow trout work very well on Apache trout. Artificial fly and lure only regulations may be in effect on some waters, so check the state regulations. The meat is firm, flaky and is considered fine eating.
Most usable methods are: Fly fishing using Fly Fishing rods, Bait Casting using
Casting rods, and my favorite
Pole Fishing with extra light, stiff, powerfull and strong Carbon Pole Rods.
They are easily caught fishing wet or dry flies. Very effective baits are worms and salmon eggs, also corn, cheese, powerbait, marshmallows and artificial lures. The number one key to successful Apache trout fishing, is to use light line (4 to 6 pound) and small hooks (10-14 sizes), and small sinkers.