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Discussion Starter #1
Hello All. I went back to the Mountains for a second time for a little longer trip and was surprised at the mixed results after last years trip. I fished Santeetlah, Fontana and Bear Lake this trip. I started on Bear with the Temps at 24 Degrees....and I was moving a little slow. I headed right up to the upper section expecting to find the Trout stacked up there once again. I put out two Hoochies and had my first Trout in a few minutes.....a 14 incher. Thirty minutes later I had a second twin. I did Not find the Trout busting shad like the year before. There were also fewer fish showing up on my electronics. I continued to troll the upper areas and picked up a fish about every thirty minutes.....kinda slow compared to 2019. After about an hour of trying spinners and spoons with no strikes, I decided to explore a bit. I began trolling back towards the Dam. I put out a Rapala and a Hoochie and just drank coffee and meandered along. I picked up a nicer 16 inch Trout on a silver Rapala....in the middle of nowhere....down at 30 ft. I tested that area for a bit and then headed for the Dam. I picked up one more fish on the Hoochie and then started working the Dam. I then found two more Trout near the Dam on the Rapala. I called it a day at 4 pm.

The next three days I spent on Fontana and Santeetlah. I headed straight up Eagle Creek....again, with expectations from the year before. Again....I spotted No Shad....or Bass busting them. I picked up some scattered Spotted Bass here and there....but no large groups. I trolled and caught two 14 inch rainbows on Rapalas....no browns. The third day Fontana was too icy to access....so I went to Santeetlah. I caught two Spotted Bass and two Rainbows....one each on a Hoochie and a Rapala. I went back to Fontana the next day and got completely Skunked! This was Not the trip I expected. The fish were definitely NOT where I was expecting them to be.

Fontana was 54 degrees, Santeetlah was 50 Degrees and Bear Lake was 45 degrees at the surface. The Air Temps started out with highs in the 40's and gradually warmed to the upper 50's by the end of my week.

For the 5th day, I decided to head back to Bear and was on the water at daybreak. I headed for the Dam to check things out and dropped a Hoochie and a Rapala again. I switched to a Hot Steel colored Rapala F9...one of my favorites. I got Nothing. I headed up for the creeks and picked up a few decent fish right away. By noon....it was over. I couldn't buy a strike as I rotated through different lures. At 1:30 I had five Trout in the box and had released two others. I was in the Dam area. I went back to the Hoochie/Rapala combo and as soon as I got the Rapala set...it went off. It was a nice 16 inch Trout. I reset and it went off again immediately? It was another 16 inch Bow. I was working both lures down around 25-30 ft to try and get to the holdover Trout. I switched the Hoochie to a Rapala X-Rap and ran two Rapalas. After that....it just went completely wild! I was getting aggressively slammed on every pass. I switched back to a Hoochie, then a silver Rapala on the second rod. I switched the rods around. They wanted the Hot Steel Rapala 3-1 over the X-Rap, Silver Rapala and the Hoochie. I caught 15 more Quality Trout over the next two plus hours. They were All nice 15-18 inch Trout and were absolutely Crushing the Rapalas. It was maybe the most exciting two plus hours of Trout Fishing I've experienced.....ever!. I extended my normal load out time because of the action.

For my sixth and final day....it was naturally back to Bear Lake. There was a steady rain falling and it was forecast for the whole day. I headed straight for the Dam......Nothing! I trolled the same spots as before, but, came up empty! I headed towards the upper lake again and remembered that nothing had happened at the Dam until the afternoon the day before. I picked up a couple of fish Up-Lake on the Hoochie....and then a couple hit the Rapala.....and then all quiet again. I headed back to the Dam....in the steady rain....and the dinner bell was back on. It was 1:00....and over the next 90 minutes I caught six more nice Trout....5 on the Rapala and 1 on the Hoochie. Again....all Quality Fish. I was drenched but Happy....and I headed back to watch some football.

Overall, It was a Very "Choppy" trip with a good ending. There were long periods of no fish, then Amazing Fishing, Bitter Cold, then Warmer temps, then Rain. I have So Many questions about what the heck the Trout were doing?

Big Takeaways: I never caught a single Brown Trout...unlike last year where I caught several???

I kept (25) Trout. In cleaning them.....I did Not find a single fish with eggs??? Last year I took back a whole bag of roe? Why weren't the Trout Spawning?

Where were the Shad? I only located two bait balls down below 60 ft during my trip?

I was surprised at Thanksgiving to find the Trout still located near the Dam....and then again this trip?

There was a surprising lack of Bass activity for me this trip as well...which is likely tied to the Shad?

I Still have so MUCH to learn. Tie on a Hot Steel Rapala right now and you'll likely be have pretty good luck. The Trout are Healthy and Active. Good Fishing to all....D




 

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Pretty sure I saw you heading away from Bryson city on the bypass as I was heading to Santeelah on Saturday. Didn’t catch a single trout, and only one bass. I thought long and hard about bear but I’ve never had great luck there.


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Plain silver plugs have always caught fewer Trout for me as opposed to most any other color. I've fished lots of Rapala Ultra Light Shad plugs. The Purpledecent one almost always fishes well. It has a purple back. The one with an olive green back has fished well. Gold with a black back gets hits. I also like Berkley Flicker Shad in the small sizes. Slick Purple Candy is about even with the leading Rapala. They'll hit other colors too. I have not tried them all. I've had good results with various little plugs that are Crawfish orange including the little Rebel Crawfish plugs. I think that colors evoke an emotional response in the fish. I can't make but a limited amount of sense from it all but plain silver with a black back seem to get the fewest strikes.

Another Rapala Rap color I've had a bunch of strikes on is Blue Back Herring. I have those with the regular diving lip and the Scatter Rap lip. They both work. My buddy Captain D and I had a big day with the Scatter Rap lip ones at Watauga a few years back. Nothing was hitting our dowrigger spoons but the two lead-core lines caught big fish. We were taking turns and I went first, 22" Rainbow. Captain D then got a 24", 5.5 pound Laker. Then I got a 26" , 6.4 pound Rainbow. A bit later D caught a 28", 7.51 pound Laker. It went quiet for some while and we decided to troll back to Rat Branch and quit early. We had 20+ pounds of trout. When we were almost back, the same plug took a 14" Brown for me.

I don't like plain silver. I've caught some on that Hot Steel color but I have not fished it as much as other colors. It sounds like you had fun, particularly at Bear Lake.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Troutgirl, I can agree with you on Purpledescent....it's another favorite of mine. I tend to use it more on Sunny days. In the winter, the days are more often gray and I've found a definite preference for chartreuse and firetiger in those conditions. Firetiger was better than chartreuse for hoochies to begin this trip.....but, the real preference was for the Rapala's.....and Hot Steel is very close to a firetiger pattern......so, it was a natural go-to. I found this out too late in the trip. I would like to be there now....trolling larger f13's a little deeper. I'm still not sure why the Trout were stacked up near the dam.....but, there were plenty of them. Of Course, by now, they may have finally moved up into the streams?

Most of the time, I had the water to myself....along with a bald eagle and the deer. I caught one trout that had barely escaped being eaten (near the tail) by what looks like possibly a Musky or a larger Walleye? Does anyone know if Musky's have ever been stocked in the Gems? The shot from my 'Bird shows the larger holdover trout in 25-30 ft of water....with the stockers in the upper 15 ft. This was the pattern for the trip. The kept trout were 15-18 inches. I kept seven a few days to make up for some slow days.....instead of my usual five. I'm hoping to make some time to sneak back up again soon. Good Fishing to all....D




 

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That first Rainbow picture is gorgeous. It looks like it's colors are intensified to garner attention at spawn-a-palooza. Was this Bear Lake again? I've never been there.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Yuppers.....that was on Bear. You know.....I never thought about the colors intensifying for the Spawn. I think it was mostly a sun beam at a good angle on a mostly cloudy day....but all of the 'bows were colorful and healthy. I can only imagine that the spawn was delayed this year for some reason. The temperatures were the same as last year?

The bite on the tail of the trout was Very Interesting to me. It looks like it had to be made by a toothy fish.....like a Musky. It's a pike shaped bite mark.....with cuts from teeth. A bass or catfish would have just sucked the trout down.

I also caught a trout that looked like it had been raked.....probably by the eagle or a hawk. You can see the claw marks.


 

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I've caught about 10 Bass and Trout with what appeared to be bird wounds over the years. I've seen Eagles take Bass and Trout in Chilhowee Lake's upper end about a half-dozen times. I saw an Eagle accidentally drop a large Rainbow on the way to nest at Chilhowee one time. River Otters get fish too. I've seen 'em get out of Chilhowee Lake with Rainbows and Smallmouths. I saw one get a Mallard Duck one time.

I looked up Bear Creek Lake and one thingie I read said Tiger Muskies had been stocked there. Anything that gets away from one of them is a very lucky fish or duck!
 

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The trout in Bear Lake are stocked by the state and do not spawn.

They are sterile
So, they're stocking sterile Triploid Rainbows. The females don't make eggs but the males do make sperm but it's no good. Do the fish go through the motions go through the motions of trying to spawn? Does anybody know? I don't see the value of stocking sterile Rainbows. I do see the value of stocking sterile Brook Trout to preserve the native strain. Only the females grow faster than unaltered fish, so I've read.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I have read that Triploids live longer and grow larger and tend to carry the looks of immature trout into adulthood. That certainly fits with the fish that I'm catching....as they are beautiful unstressed fish. The theory is that, they are unfettered with the stresses of spawning and can simply concentrate on eating and growing.

Having said that.....I can also tell you that without question, I have caught males bursting with milt and females full of eggs on both Bear and Wolf. So.....spawning.....successful or not....is definitely happening there. True Triploids apparently do not usually develop gonads....though some do. I have also seen and documented the trout moving up the streams.....though this year was not as busy up the streams. Last year, I found them on Bear, Wolf, Fontana and Santeetlah.....stacked in the streams....and full of eggs? I took home a quart bag full and brined them. I'm guessing there's a healthy mixture of Wild and Triploid fish?

As always.....Much to learn.....D


 

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I'm certain there are some wild Rainbows in Santeetlah Lake. It was stocked with the Steelhead strain that has 4-6 more vertebrae than other Rainbow strains many years ago. In the past 5 years I've caught about a half-dozen Rainbows that looked longish and I presume had the extra vertebrae. It leads me to believe that the Steelhead strain's DNA is still mixed in the gene pool of the current fish.

I don't think that Tennessee has found any long-term interest in Triploid Trout. I read that they had stocked some Triploid Rainbows in Watauga and Chilhowee Lakes about 10 years back. I believe that I've caught some. I remember catching some female looking Rainbows without eggs in Chilhowee. I think their Triploid experimenting is over.

Tennessee has experimented with many Rainbow strains in the Clinch River below Norris Dam. There's a large creek that enters the river less than 2 miles below the dam that has good spawning conditions for Rainbows in the winter. TWRA has tried and tried to find a Rainbow strain that would spawn in the creek so they wouldn't need to stock as much. If there's ever been any success it's been minimal.

I don't see much value in stocking Triploid Rainbows in this region. I completely see the value in western streams and lakes where you don't want Rainbows to cross with native Cutthroat strains because they can freely and effectively interbreed. In the southern Appalachians, the only value is that the females grow faster. The males do not have their gonads destroyed like the females do. They make impotent sperm.

I think that it would be a good idea for North Carolina to stock Triploid Brook Trout but Rainbows, no.
 

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The trout in Fontana and Santeetlah are wild trout with a few stockers coming down from the stocked streams I’m sure. All trout stocked by NC are triploid fish anymore.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
So......I've been pondering this for a bit. If the Triploids don't Spawn....or even attempt to....they will follow Very Different patterns in the winter from their Wild cousins. They only need good oxygen and a food source. Otherwise, they can simply move Vertically up and down in the water column....with little reason to leave the Dam area of a lake.....or whichever area provides for their needs the best. That seems to be what I stumbled on this year. That would also mean that there would be two distinct groups of Trout....which may or may not spend time together.

Wild Trout will still Spawn and move up the creeks every winter in search of suitable spawning areas and current. There is a healthy population of those....as I've caught many. The Triploids, however, can just focus on eating and growing. I think going forward, it might be time to develop Separate Strategies for chasing them. I've been reading about Trophy Triploids in other states. After my last trip.....I have little doubt there are some Trophy Triploids in the Gems. Between the four Gems, they receive 20,000 Triploids each year. While a majority are caught or eaten, there are still plenty of holdover trout. Of the (25) fish I kept this last trip.....ALL were holdover fish with red/pink flesh....as opposed to the stockers which are ashen grey from the pellets they're fed. Stockers require a year or two of a "wild" diet to develop the red/pink flesh.

There are also 25,000 Plus trout stocked into the streams that feed Santeetlah and 40,000 Plus trout stocked into the streams that feed Fontana. There is Little Doubt healthy populations exist in those lakes as well.

I think I've just had another epiphany as far as tracking down and catching these Trout. It may be time to treat them differently.
As always....Much to learn, Good Fishing....D
 

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.....All trout stocked by NC are triploid fish anymore.
One size never fits all. Selective Triploid stocking is a good idea in some areas where you don't want spawning invasions in the stream or other streams that connect via a lake. Stocking Triploids in Fontana Lake seems like a good idea if the objective is to keep spawning fish out of the national park streams. Down south on Apalachia Lake it seems like getting some free reproduction in the several small creeks that enter it would be a positive.

I hope Triploid Browns are never put in Calderwood Lake. Browns first came to Calderwood Lake after C.C.C. , a work project agency created by Franklin Roosevelt, stocked them in Slickrock Creek after they rehabilitated the damage from logging the area in 1936. I don't think that many, if any, Browns were stocked in the lake till the 1990's. Back in the 1970's when I first fished Calderwood and Slickrock, we caught an occasional Brown in Calderwood and only Browns in Slickrock. In the past twenty years about 10-20% of the Trout I've caught trolling Calderwood have been Browns. I know some Browns have been stocked in recent years. That's a good thing! It increased the gene pool which can only be positive. All Brown Trout are brown mutts due to stocking all over Europe. There's one exception. The only widely recognized pure strain of Browns is in Iceland. No fish have ever been stocked in Iceland, period. A wide gene pool is favorable for Browns.

If Triploid Browns were in Calderwood they could damage the spawn with defective sperm. After the Browns surviving all these years, I hope no Triploid Browns ever move in. Big Browns happened in Calderwood long before Triploids were a thing. The former Tennessee state record Brown, 23 pounds, was probably caught in Calderwood. The couple that caught it reported it for the Little T below Chilhowee Dam. This was long before Tellico Lake. The couple that caught the 23 pounder ran a store, ramp, boat rental, and float service on the Little T. Several of their neighbors have told me that their big Brown was really caught in Calderwood over the years. That 23 pounder was impressive. It was on the wall in their store. A huge Brown was caught in Calderwood last year. It's picture is on this forum somewhere. It was either 17 or 19 pounds, I forget....

I think that the use of Triploids should be selective, purposeful. If global warming keeps proceeding, there may come a day when Brown Trout will be the only viable Trout in this region...??? Let's hope not! I think it's a real possibility. I think that Browns can withstand even warmer temps than Rainbows. It's my opinion that this is so because Browns had to move way downstream into streams carved into the European continental shelf during the many ice ages where sea level went way, way down and 90% of today's land was ice covered. The same sort of thing could have happened for Rainbows...??? Both Rainbows and Browns can tolerate warmer temps than the Arctic Char family, Brookies, Lakers, Bull trout, and about a half-dozen other species/subspecies that aren't widely distributed or are extinct.

I think that a blanket policy of Triploids only is flawed.
 

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I have to wonder if male Triploid Trout will try and spawn. They make sperm that is defective. Sterile men still love to spawn.... :D
 

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Discussion Starter #17
I'm still doing a lot of reading. Triploid Salmon have been studied....and only a small percentage of Triploid males bother to return to the streams. Females don't bother at all. The study was done to assess the damage from "False Spawning"....where an infertile male would attempt to fertilize a Wild Female's eggs. The fear is that this could actually reduce the numbers of wild fish by causing the eggs to be wasted through False Spawning.

While information is still hard to come by....it appears that Triploid Females produce No Eggs....and do Not participate in the spawn. Males "may" develop gonads in some cases.....and "may" participate in the spawn....but, the majority do not. One study I read, mentioned that there is rarely, but, sometimes.... regression....and nature actually finds a way.

So....in summary, Triploids have little to no interest in spawning....except for a few pesky males. They co-exist with wild trout as far as we know, without affecting them. There was a study done with brown trout, where the effect was negligent. They appear to grow slower than Wild Trout (Diploids) in the beginning. Once Wild Trout mature and start spawning at 2-3 years, Triploids have the advantage of no spawning stress and grow faster. Spawning consumes about two months of a trout's life each year. So far, there is no definitive proof that Triploids grow larger....only the theory and some undocumented fishing reports.

In British Columbia and Washington State, they have created a Trophy Fishery by breeding Only Female Triploids. They claim the fish grow larger and live longer. This is a more expensive and labor intensive Triploid, but, the results seem to be paying off. Who knows? Maybe one of the Gems will be converted to an All Female Triploid Lake one day?

More to study....Good Fishing....D

From one article......
"The sterile trout have lived twice as long and grown to nearly twice the size of normal hatchery trout.
The fish, known as triploid females, do not suffer the rigors of developing reproductive organs. They do not attempt the futile effort to spawn in landlocked lakes."


 

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Discussion Starter #18
There was a study done with brown trout, where the effect was negligible....not negligent......doh!
 

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There was a study done with brown trout, where the effect was negligible....not negligent......doh!
Natural Browns can and do get huge. The world record was 42 pounds from Arkansas for many years. It's 43 pounds New Zealand now. A guy from my church who took my next door neighbor and I with him the the Little T, before Tellico Lake, hooked a Brown that looked 30-35 pounds to me. It was misfortune that Chilhowee Dam wasn't generating at the time. He could not turn the fish in the slow water. It swam to the other side of the river, his drag screaming, where there was a giant, probably Chestnut log. It then proceeded to whack it's head on the log till the Rapala plug flew out. The plug came back with teeth holes in it. When Chilhowee was generating hard, you had a better chance of landing the bigger fish. The Browns had to fight the current as well as you.

Browns do very well without stripping them of their genitals. I think that the Triploid treatment works best for Rainbows but I have not read the latest stuff.
 

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South Carolina only stocks triploids as well.

Lake Jocassee is getting only triploid brown trout anymore plus what wild brown trout already live in the lake.
 
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