Sea trout are the sea-run form of the brown trout and, like salmon, are anadromous, running from the sea to freshwater to spawn, although unlike salmon, sea trout will feed spasmodically’ when in fresh water. When they first enter trie river, adult sea trout are bright silver with hardly any spots, but the longer they are in freshwater the carer they become, and towards the end of the season many are almost black. When they reach this stage they are nearly ready to spawn and if caught should be returned carefully.
Habitat and Location
Sea trout are found in much of the coastal water surrounding Ireland the UK, along with much northern Europe and Scandinavia. Like salmon, they have been under a great deal cat2 pressure in recent- years, and in some areas, most notably the west coast of Ireland, populations appear to have collapsed and many fisheries are experiencing very limited runs. Much of the blame has been placed on salmon farms, where great net cages containing thousands of salmon have sprung up in many coastal regions -just the areas where the sea trout live.
What has caused the problem is not the salmon themselves but the sea lice which parasitize them. Although the farmers treat the salmon to kill this pest, the vast numbers of fish make easy hosts and mean that sea lice numbers have rocketed, infesting the wild sea trout which rapidly lose condition and die. Inshore and estuary netting also take their toll, considerably reducing the numbers of fish able to return to spawn, while the commercial fishing of sandeels to create the pellets for feeding the farmed salmon also reduces the sea trout’s food supply. However, it is not all bad news. Many waters such as those in Wales and the West Country, where salmon farming is not such an issue, still have good runs of sea trout including some very large fish well into double figures. Welsh rivers in particular, including the Dovey, Towy and Rheidol, have produced some wonderful sea trout fishing over the last few years.
Behavior and Feeding Habits
When the sea trout comes into spawning condition it is far less reliant that the salmon on a large spate to induce it to run. While extra water will bring sea trout in to the river system, they are quite capable of working their way upstream even in low summer levels. Although in exceptional circumstances sea trout will enter a river as early as March and as late as October, the main runs take place in the summer months from June through to September, with July and August being the peak months.
Actual spawning takes place from October through to January. Like the salmon, the sea trout goes through stages from egg through to parr and eventually smolt before heading for, the sea. Sea trout can be caught both in freshwater and saltwater. Traditionally they have been taken from lakes and rivers, but increasing numbers of anglers are finding areas where they can be caught from the seashore. The west of Ireland, Scotland and Wales are the most productive coastlines, along with island groups, such as the Orkneys and Shetlands.
Tickle, is quite simple, either light spinning gear or medium-weight fly tackle similar to that used in reservoir lure fishing. Fly patterns are also the most effective being large streamer patterns that imitate small fish. While catching sea trout from saltwater is growing in popularity the majority of fish are still taken when they return to freshwater. In rivers they may be caught on bait, spinner or fly.
Worm fishing is very effective, particularly when the water is high and coloured, while spinning with a small Mepps spinner or a light Quill Minnow is deadly when the river is clearing. The Quill Minnow can be particularly effective even in low water – and is often fished upstream rather than down. When the river is low, typically at summer level, fly fishing comes into its own. Although sea trout can be caught on the fly during daylight if the water is still carrying a little colour, clear low water, under the Cover of darkness is when they take best. Night fishing for sea trout is an exciting experience although not without its problems.
Casting and wading are the most obvious two and if you are fishing a river the first time, it is essential to observe the pools first in daylight to learn their characteristics before night falls. When it is dark the shoals of sea trout, which during the day remain concealed under banks and in the deeper pools, move into the shallower water and are keen to take a fly. When the river is low small trout patterns such as the Butcher or the Peter Ross tied on a size 10 hook work well, but for normal conditions, a larger fly such as the Blackie or the Medicine Fly is more effective.
These may be fished on either a floating or slow-sinking line working the fly across and downstream. On lakes and lochs, sea trout may be caught on standard wet-fly tackle almost identical to that used for loch-style trout fishing. They are also caught dapping, where a large bushy fly is allowed to blow out in front of the boat on a floss line and bounced on the top of the water. They may also be caught on spinners, either cast and retrieved or trolled from a boat under power.