Category: Steelhead


It’s finally out, just in time for trout season and anyone planning to make the journey to Argentina and fulfill a dream. I try to re-fulfill the dream every chance I get!!! ūüėČ

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A while ago, I started a review of what I know about Trout, but since there are so many species (over 60) I’ll keep this focused on the basics and True Trout today and later we’ll review some species of Char. Here are some that you already know about, and maybe one or two you didn’t.

Future Monster

Rainbow trout are among the most popular game fish. Their natural range is from Alaska to Argentina, but they have been widely introduced in other localities. They are olive to greenish-blue above and silvery below with a prominent red or pink stripe along the side. Stream-dwellers have dark spots on the body, dorsal fins, and tail. Lake-dwellers usually have weak spots or none. Rainbow trout have been recorded weighing up to 50 pounds (22.5 kg)… although I don’t know anyone who’s caught a monster like that, but apparently it is true.

Steelhead

Steelheads are actually sea-running rainbow trout. They go out to sea when they are about a year old, returning upstream to spawn two to five years later. Steelheads have been monitored traveling 2,500 miles (4,000 km) from Adak in the Aleutian Islands to the Columbia River in Washington. While at sea they are colored like the lake-dwelling rainbows (sort of a opaque silvery color), but near spawning time they resemble stream-dwellers. They can weigh up to 35 pounds (16 kg). Now, this is the weird part because, here in Argentina, the Steelheads are usually much larger than the Rainbows. In fact, I would invert the weight estimates between Rainbow and Steelhead here.

Cutthroat

Cutthroat trout get their name from a bright red streak on the throat. They are found in coastal streams from Alaska to northern California and in inland waters of the western United States and Canada. I’ve never heard of them here, but I’m checking with some guides I know in various provinces to be sure. Cutthroats in high mountain streams are often called spotted trout. Sea-running cutthroats enter the ocean when a year old and remain there a year or two before returning to coastal streams to spawn. Cutthroats average around 5 pounds (2.25 kg), but some attain a weight of 40 pounds (18 kg).

Big Brown

Brown trout are native to Europe from Iceland to the Mediterranean Sea, but have been successfully transplanted to other parts of the world. They are golden to greenish brown with darker brown or black spots on the sides, back, and dorsal fins. There is also a sprinkling of red or orange spots, with pale borders, on the upper sides. While fishing the Chimehuin River in the Province of Neuquén two years ago, we actually caught Browns there were both dark brown with orange spots and silvery browns, depending on how many days they had been coming into the river from Lake Huechulafquen (try not to choke on that name, although it might clear up some congestion trying). Apparently, the change in color has to do with the hormones that accompany breeding activity.

Brown just in from the lake. Note the difference in color.

Brown trout are difficult to catch because they are much more aggressive fighters and use the river current to their advantage. Some individuals grow to a weight of 40 pounds (18 kg), but the average brown trout caught in the United States weighs 4 to 7 pounds (1.8 to 3.2 kg), while I believe that the average Brown in Argentina is probably 20% larger.

Golden trout are beautifully colored fish found in mountain streams and lakes in California, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Again, I’m pretty certain there are no Golden trout in Argentina (although there are Golden Dorado… but that’s another story.) Golden trout, as you may have guessed are pure black… just kidding,¬†actually¬†they are gold in color with a pinkish stripe along the side and a golden or reddish-orange belly.

Golden Trout: Note the red and spots

The dorsal fin, tail, and upper part of the body have dark spots. Golden trout average one pound (450 g) or less, but some attain a weight of about 10 pounds (4.5 kg).

The nice thing about fishing for trout here in Argentina, is that you can’t always be sure what you’ll get. Many species share the same habitat, and compete in the same waters for survival. Depending on when each species is actively spawning or feeding, and depending on whether you are in the right place at the right time, you may catch several different trout in a single outing.

While taking a break from a 4×4 excursion through Mendoza’s Valle Hermoso, in 20 minutes I could three different varieties of trout. In fact, I’m sort of doubtful about one of them. I think it may have been a land-locked salmon, since it was so different from the other two. It was the first I caught that day, and I didn’t have my camera ready, but you can see from these pictures, that the second two trout were¬†definitely¬†different species. Now can you tell which is which?

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