Trout are by far the most popular fish in the Mountains. They are a cold water fish, needing the high oxygen levels provided by the swift flowing streams. All Mountain Trout waters are posted with signs well displayed, telling you the designation (Hatchery Supported, Native, or Catch and Release). All information on these streams can be gotten free at any store that sells licenses. Many of these streams are marginal Trout waters (at best), so many of them are what some people call "put and take", and what the Wildlife Resources Commission (hereafter called NCWRC) calls Hatchery Supported. In these streams, a hatchery truck comes along and dumps trout out, and people come along and catch them within a few days. These trout can be told from the "native" or stream raised fish by their fins being worn off (by the raceways in the hatchery), and by the proportionately smaller mouths, caused by the faster growth rate in the hatchery. These streams have a 7 trout per day limit, and no size or lure restrictions. "Natives" have larger mouths and more streamlined bodies. Many people think the natives taste better, but it is a much argued point. Personally, I do not like the taste of trout; I like to catch them and release them if they are not injured by swallowing the hook. If I have to keep them, I will save them up and invite some friends for a fish fry.
The second type of stream is termed Native. In these streams the NCWRC does not stock, and the trout are allowed to naturally reproduce. Most of these streams have lure restrictions, and the limit is four fish, and there is a size limit. Look at the signs posted on the stream bank for more information.
The third type
Catch and Release, and they mean it. No matter how big, no matter
anything, DO NOT keep any fish from these streams. They are maintained
for fly fishermen (and women), and generally have a restriction of
single hook flies. Once again, read the signs.
Kinds of Trout
There are basically
three kinds of trout in mountain streams here, the Rainbow,
(really a Pacific Salmon), the
Brown Salmo trutta (a true
Trout), and the Brook,
Salvelinus fontinalis, (really
a Char). There is only one Trout that was originally native to this region,
the Brook, which is not a Trout at all, but as I said, is a Char. There
is a controversy amongst Mountain people about Brook Trout and Speckled
Trout. They are both the same species, but different subspecies. The Speckled
is the strain that was originally here, and seems to be a bit more brightly
colored; the Brook was imported from Maine for raising in hatcheries. The
differences are subtle, and they are difficult to tell apart. The Speckled
inhabits cold remote streams in the Smokies and the Nantahala, and a few
other places. If you catch one, let it go. There aren't very many.
Both these fish have a light on dark coloration, with light colored squiggle markings on a dark background. There are red spots on the side, (brighter in stream raised or "native" fish), and the pectoral and pelvic fins have a white leading edge, and a white stripe goes down both sides along these fins. I think they are the prettiest, especially in breeding season when the sides get yellowish, and the red spots are outlined in blue.
Rainbows are silver with black spots, and in mature specimens, the red "rainbow" can be seen quite plainly. They along with the Brown have pretty much taken over the streams, competing with the Brook, and driving them into more remote higher reaches of streams. Rainbows were introduced here from the Pacific slope in the 1800's, and are a member of the Pacific Salmon group, but do not die after spawning.
Browns are rather silvery with an overall yellowish or "brown" ground color. They have black spotting on top, and orange spots on the side that get large and red in the breeding season, when the males also develop a rather hooked jaw. They can tolerate rather warmer water than the other two, and are very wily and easy to spook. They were introduced here from Europe in the 1800's for fishermen who wanted a "challenge".
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