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Fishes of Yosemite National Park (1941, 1948) by Willis A. Evans and Orthello L. Wallis


Salmo trutta fario Linnaeus

Originally a native of European waters, this trout was introduced into this country during the early days of American fish culture. It has also been called the Loch Leven trout, after a form brought to America from Scotland. However, Dr. Card L. Hubbs, along with other leaders in this field, has concluded that the differences between the two are insufficient to separate the two as individual species. Thus all may be correctly termed brown trout. This trout spawns in the fall, while it will be recalled that the rainbow spawns in the spring.

Its general coloration is brownish yellow with the sides covered by many large dark spots, often very black, with a few red ones intermingled. In the young, the black spots have no white ring and red spots are prevalent along the sides. With increasing age these crimson dots turn dark brown or almost black and a lighter colored ring surrounds most of the dark spots like a halo. A simple rule to remember is the brown trout is the only trout with both black and red spots on its sides.

In the slower, warmer waters of the lower reaches of our larger streams, generally below 7,000 or 8,000 feet, the brown trout has obtained the upper hand in competition with the native rainbow trout. During the summer of 1948, investigations disclosed that in Yosemite Valley where the rainbow trout once was dominant, brown trout are now abundant. In the riffles and faster waters of the Merced canyon below the Valley rainbow trout were more prominent.

The brown trout is generally considered to be more predaceous than the rainbow trout. It has a tendency to become “educated” to resist the tempting offerings of anglers much more rapidly than the rainbow. For this reason, brown trout are often able to persist and maintain themselves in waters where rainbow trout have long been caught out.

The larger brown trout are difficult to catch and are a match for the best of anglers. They seldom rise well to flies and tend to be bottom feeders. Of course, such “whoppers” are always the cause of much “tall” story telling among anglers.

Specimens up to seven and eight pounds are occasionally taken during the summer in the larger pools and rarely even larger ones are caught in Yosemite. The largest one on record from the park was caught by Mr. F. Hatch in the Merced river near the El Capitan meadow on July 17, 1932. This record fish was a

BROWN TROUT—Courtesy California Fish and Game
[click to enlarge]
BROWN TROUT—Courtesy California Fish and Game.
female which measured 27 1/2 inches and weighed 12 pounds and 9 ounces. It was caught on a No. 6 hook with single gut leader and light tackle. For those who like to see a fish story some true it has been preserved in alcohol and is on exhibit at the Yosemite Museum in the Government Center.

Other record brown trout include the following:

9 pounds, 15 ounces. 28 1/4 inches. Merced River near Cascade Creek, lower Yosemite Valley. June 5, 1924. No. 4 hook baited with salmon eggs. U. N. Gilbo.

9 pounds, 3 ounces. 29 1/2 inches. inches. Merced River near Pohono bridge. June 5, 1924. Albert Skelton.

5 pounds, 14 ounces. 24 inches. Merced River. No. 6 hook baited with angle worm. Tune, 1932. Dick Noall.

The planting of brown trout in our high country where low water temperatures prevail has done more harm than good. They are not readily adaptable to cold water and do not compare in such environment with the native rainbow trout. At one time the brown trout was one of the most extensively stocked trout in California, as a whole. Now, according to Mr. L. E. Nixon, foreman at the Happy Isles hatchery, the national parks are the main areas in the state in which this species is planted. However, no brown trout will be reared in the Yosemite hatchery or planted within the park in the future. In the California hatcheries, at present, about one brown trout egg is hatched for every 38 rainbow trout eggs.

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