Bull Trout fish identification, its habitats, characteristics, fishing methods.
Bull trout are members of the char subgroup of the salmon family, which also includes the Dolly Varden, lake trout, and Arctic char. Bull trout exhibit two forms: resident and migratory. Resident bull trout spend their entire lives in the same stream/creek. Migratory bull trout move to larger bodies of water to rear young and then migrate back to smaller waters to reproduce. An anadromous form of bull trout also exists in the Coastal-Puget Sound population, which spawns in rivers and streams but rears young in the ocean. Resident and juvenile bull trout prey on invertebrates and small fish. Adult migratory bull trout primarily eat fish. Resident bull trout range up to 10 inches long and migratory forms may range up to 35 inches and up to 32 pounds.
The bull trout, Salvelinus confluentus, is a char of the family Salmonidae native to northwestern North America is found in the cold, clear waters of the high mountains and coastal rivers of northwestern North America, including Yukon, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, western Montana, as well as the Jarbidge River of northern Nevada.
Like other species of char, the fins of bull trout have white leading edges. Its head and mouth are unusually large for salmonids, giving it its name. Bull trout have been recorded measuring up to 103 centimetres (41 in) in length and weighing 14.5 kilograms (32 lb). They have small, pale yellow to crimson spots on a darker background, which ranges from olive green to brown above, fading to white
on the belly. Spawning adults develop varying amounts of red on the belly.
Bull trout can be differentiated from Brook trout by the absence of distinct spots on the dorsal fin, as well as yellow, orange, or salmon-colored spots on the back as opposed to red spots with blue haloes on the brook trout. Bull trout lack the deeply forked tail fin of Lake trout.
Compared to other salmonids, bull trout have more specific habitat requirements that appear to influence their distribution and abundance. They need cold water to survive, so they are seldom found in waters where temperatures exceed 59-64°F. They also require stable stream channels, clean spawning and rearing gravel, complex and diverse cover, and unblocked migratory corridors. Bull trout may be either migratory, moving throughout large river systems, lakes, and the ocean, or they may be resident, remaining in the same stream their entire lives. Migratory bull trout are typically much larger than resident bull trout, which rarely exceed 2 kilograms (4 lb).
Bull trout have exacting habitat demands, requiring water temperatures generally below 55°F (13°C), clean gravel beds, deep pools, complex cover such as snags and cut banks, and large systems of interconnected waterways to accommodate spawning migrations. Thus, they favor the deep pools of cold lakes and large rivers, as well as high, cold mountain headwaters. Bull trout may be anadromous in coastal rivers, and individual bull trout have been found to have migrated from one coastal river to another via the ocean.
Some bull trout may live near areas where they were hatched. Others migrate from streams to lakes, reservoirs (or, in the case of coastal populations, salt water) a few weeks after emerging from the gravel. Migratory bull trout attain a greater size than resident stream fish. However, lakes and reservoirs are not good spawning habitat, so migratory bull trout may swim considerable distances to spawn when habitat conditions allow.
Young bull trout feed on zooplankton and zoobenthos, especially chironomids. As they grow larger, they begin to feed heavily upon other fish. Some of the southernmost populations of bull trout feed heavily on salmon eggs and fry, as well as fish.
Bull trout reach sexual maturity at between four and seven years of age and are known to live as long as 12 years. They spawn in the fall after temperatures drop below 46°F (8°C), in streams with cold, unpolluted water, clean gravel and cobble substrate, and gentle stream slopes. Many spawning areas are associated with cold water springs or areas where stream flow is influenced by groundwater.
Bull trout eggs require a long incubation period compared to other salmon and trout (4-5 months), hatching in late winter or early spring. Fry remain in the stream bed for up to three weeks before emerging. Juvenile fish retain their fondness for the stream bottom and are often found at or near it.
Bull trout may spawn every year or in alternate years. Migratory forms begin their spawning migration in mid- to late spring and enter tributary streams in mid-to late summer. Spawning for both forms occurs from August to November, during periods of decreasing water temperatures.
Bull trout construct a typical salmonid redd (a pit in the stream substrate, excavated by the fish’s tail) in which to lay eggs. The female chooses the spawning site and excavates the redd while the male defends the site. Eggs are deposited as deep as 10 inches below the streambed surface. Migratory adults move back downstream soon after spawning. Depending on the water temperature, hatching occurs in 100 to 145 days, usually in January. After hatching, fry remain in the substrate while they absorb their yolk sax, emerging from the streambed in April or May. Juvenile migratory bull trout stay in the tributary of their birth for 1 to 4 years before moving downstream. Bull trout typically reach sexual maturity in 4 to 7 years.
Both migratory and resident forms of bull trout spawn in headwater or tributary streams. Spawning habitat consists of very cold water and loose, clean gravel from ½ to 3 inches in diameter, with less than 20 percent fine sediments around it. Spawning and rearing areas are often associated with areas of upwelling, such as cold-water springs or subsurface flows, because these streams are often cooler in summer and warmer in winter than other streams. While spawning can occur in water up to 46°F, egg survival during incubation is highest at water temperatures of 35 to 39 °F. Spawning sites include runs, glides, and tail-outs of pools with water 4 to 18 inches deep. Because eggs incubate over the winter, incubation sites are particularly vulnerable to scouring, low flows, or anchor ice accumulations.
Winter and early spring are the best times to fish for large Bull Trout. They can usually be found in 10 to 20 foot of water. Any lure that resembles a six to twelve Kokanee is best. Fly fisherman can set up a wind drift along the shore and cast large streamers into the appropriate zones.
Trolling for big trout is also popular. Large silver plugs such as Rapalas and Rebels are successful. Some fishermen will use down riggers putting their lures at the appropriate depth which is usually 15 to 20 feet. Be ready for a strike when you cross a main lake point. Cut herring is a popular bait when trolling.
When fishing for bull trout in the Tidal Fraser River, you can either use bait (if a bait ban is not in effect) or lures. Small spoons and spinners that immitate juvenile salmon and other baitfish work great between April and June, while a hook baited with roe is effective between September and December when salmon return to spawn.
When fishing for bull trout in streams, float fishing with egg patterns can work great during the salmon season. Spoons and spinners never fail because the vibration is difficult to resist for a bull trout. Once salmon spawning takes place, flyfishing with either egg or flesh patterns usually work well. Once juvenile salmon begin to emerge, minnow patterns should be used due to a shift in bull trout's diet.
Bull trout are not targeted specifically in the ocean due to their low abundance. Occasionally feeding fish can be caught near estuaries, kelp beds and other structures. The size of your fishing equipment is essential. Ultra light and light are the best types of fishing gear. You only need a heavier gear if you want to catch the monster Brown Trout that lives in the Great Lakes. Many anglers prefers ultra light reel spooled with four. It is adequate to get very large trout. Size 10 is a good size hooks for live bait.