Guest Author: Sarah Baird
In many streams and rivers across the United States, the annual spring rainbow trout spawn is in full force which usually means that the controversy and ethics that surround the practice of intentionally fishing redds, are soon to follow.
Spawning beds, also known as Redds, are areas of cleared gravel that are located in stream and river beds that have shallow water with adequate current. These gravel beds are cleared by female trout (hens) in preparation for reproduction and egg laying and can easily be identified as large, white circular areas devoid of small particulate material.
Because of the visibility of redds and density of spawning trout, which can often be seen by the dozen, anglers are often tempted to pull fish off of redds despite the potential public outcry against this practice.
It is important to note that fishing redds, while not illegal, is viewed by many anglers and outfitters as unethical. Just because something is legal, doesn’t mean that it is ethical. Several organizations ranging from Trout Unlimited, Field & Stream and Orvis have all spoken out against intentionally targeting spawning fish while they’re on redds. Some states like Wyoming and Arkansas have seasonal fishing closures to protect critical streambed areas that have a high density of redds. The area between the cables on the Grey Reef section of the North Platte River in Wyoming, is one of the most well-known redd closures in the western U.S. This section of Blue-Ribbon quality water is closed to all fishing from April 1 to April 30th to protect spawning rainbow trout.
The ethics and morality that surround fishing redds varies greatly among anglers; some disagree with the practice while others argue that it isn’t illegal, therefore it isn’t wrong or morally reprehensible. It is important, that we as sportsmen and women, do not impose our self- held morals onto others, for what some of us may view as wrong, others may view as right or vice versa. All we can do is educate and hope that people have enough respect for the fishery and resources to exercise restraint against fishing for trout on redds.
The success of any fishery is dependent, in part, on the success of the spawn. When anglers purposely fish redds, they not only expose spawning fish to undue stress but they can easily destroy redds by wading through them and can potentially discourage future spawning behavior.
These fish spawn once a year and only in very specific habitats, so it is best to leave them alone and fish somewhere else. There are 11 more months out of the year for anglers to fish for trout, but if you do chose to fish in April, please be aware of where you’re fishingplease don’t tredd on redds.