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Freestone vs. Limestone Streams (fish coloration,size and strength/weight) Long post

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2006/9/9 17:18
From lancaster county
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Iam by no means an expert, fisheries biologist, scientist or god. So please just know iam very well read, used some personal observations and did some research via the internet for this post. So by all means dispute anything in this post if you feel the need. Offer any information you have to share, this could be a great discussion.

Color:

I think that first looking @ the obvious is in order. What are some obvious things that can make fish look different from season to season, stream to stream and even fish to fish in one watershed.

Spawning: Spawning Brown and Brook trout will change many physical charateristics including color. A Brown breeding male will develop a long, hooked jaw and brighten in color. Most often becoming much more golden. I, myself, think that the red spots will become brighter also. Brook Trout breeding males colors become more intense and the belly becomes deep-orange. Females will become fat with eggs in both species.
Spawning brookie

While this is obvious sometimes Time of year plays a role in fish coloration. Im sure 1 month after the spawn Browns and Brooks could be brighter than say 6 months after. Also 1 month before i would assume them to be coloring some. I would actually like to know how long Brown and Brook Trout keep there color after the spawn. I couldnt find the answer and i never really thought about it. Anyone?

Habitat: Habitat plays a big role in trout coloration, size and distribution. Yes i said distribution. What could that possibly have to do with trout size? Easy answer.....the better the habitat the more fish likely to be there. The more fish means the more competition for food. A smart trout will find a place with less fish and less competition. Meaning in the end he gets much more food in his belly. This applies to both freestone and limestone streams but it affects freestone trout even more. In Limestone streams there is already so much food that competition doesnt much matter. Try to remember that just because a stream section might have less than favorable habitat, doesnt mean there isnt food in that stretch. Also, very good habitat will allow fish to hide from predators. Living a longer life is one way to get bigger. Limestone Springs are notorious for having good flows, aquatic vegetation and being silty. Silt will not effect fish growth....just spawning. How in the world does habitat effect fish coloration? Well it does in two ways. Here is one example:A rainbow from a deeply shaded mountain stream is often quite dark. Even the belly may be dark gray. I say the same to be true of Brook and Brown trout.
Here is a stream in Central PA:
Stream 1
Take note to the color of the stream bottom. Its a sandy golden color with dark spots. Now look @ the brown that came from the stream:
Brown
Pretty. Hes dark in color but has a very deep golden color. No doubt he has adapted to his habitat and become elusive to the eye. In fact on this fishing trip we had browns right in front of us and didnt notice them until we moved. Even with glasses, if there isnt a sun making a shadow of the fish....they can be hard to see.
What about the brookies in this stream?
Brookie
Hes fairly dark for a brookie also, but i have seen them darker.(ive seen brookies almost black in color) The brookies i have seen that are very dark often come from heavily shaded woods in tannic water. NEPA is good for this. hmmmmmm stained water and dark fish.......seems they have adapted also.
I will say that the smaller fish in this stream are not as dark. Is it possible in their young life, they just havent adapted yet? Possible. Maybe as trout mature they just gain more color. Hard to say for me anyways.
Some of us have even noted that a fish taking a lie in a shaded area will become darker if he has been there a very long time. All the other fish in the more open sections are not as dark. Seems this adaption theory sheds some light on the subject....no pun intended The second way habitat has an effect on color is habitat for food. Next:

Diet: Diet is one if not the biggest factor associated with color and size. Limestone streams have more food. More food = bigger trout. Color is effected when a trout eats certain foods. I have no idea what properties a brookie must consume to get more orange, but i know from talking with Mike K that it is true. I fished a Lancaster County Stream not on the Natural Reproduction List and caught more than 10 brookies that looked like this:
Brookie
This was not during the spawn but rather in the middle of summer. When i called Mike asking him about the trouts bright color, he said it is possible they eat alot of crustaceans. I dont know what it is about them, but it must color them up well. I would assume the same of browns but i dont know. Thoughts?
Did all the fish look like this?No. Reasons? I dunno, different diets in different stream sections or maybe even 2 different strains of fish. Stains of fish is hard to prove but im sure it happens.
Purple Brookie
The other brookie
Both these fish came from the same stream. Half the fish are purple and the other half are the other color. Could be diet and it could be a different strain. I dunno.

Fish Strength: This is all subjective. One fish can feel like its fighting harder than another, but its more likely they are just playing you better. However there is some truth to this. MKern mention in another post he thiks that Freestone browns swim more for food than they do in Limestone streams. Making a sleeker and stronger fish. That might be true, but i think it has more to do with GRADIENT. Limestone streams are often flat and slow. Little gradient means little current, even with a nice flow. Higher gradient in freestone streams means @ times the fish will have to fight to hold position. Fighting to hold position will burn energy, making the fish thinner but stronger. Its like the comparision of Bruce Willis on a coutch eating potato chips or Bruce Lee chasing down noodles. However........you can have the best of both worlds in PA. Some of my favorite streams are Limestone influenced freestone streams. Fishing Creek comes to mind Lots of food in a high gradient stream will lead to fatter but stronger fish. With the right foods available.....they will be bright also. Here is a brown that came from a freestone stream in york that is a trib of a Limestoner. Big and bright!
Brown

Limestone influenced streams are my favorite. The trout came from a freestoner but the stream was flooded with small wild browns. I did see 4 that were his size or bigger. I could jump across this stream. They no doubt used the Limestone stream to forage during appropriate times of the year.

Anyways im tired of typing and have contributed a lot to digest. Tell us your thoughts and experiences! Lets make this a good discussion. Time to go hold my baby.

P.S. INTERESTING FACTS ON TROUT COLORATION:
he black spots, the parr marks, and the fine black stippling found on most trout are caused by great numbers of melanophores or black pigment cells filled with microscopic black pigment granules. Similarly, the red and yellow colors are produced by cells filled with red and yellow pigments. Trout and many other kinds of fishes are able to change their colors quite rapidly and they do this by contracting or expanding these pigment cells. When thousands of these tiny cells are expanded the pigment granules are spread out and the fish becomes dark or red or yellow, as the case may be. Then, these cells may be stimulated by nerve impulses and made to contract into pin points of black or of color and immediately the fish becomes much lighter. In addition to this rapid means of modifying color or the intensity of the color, a trout may lose or gain pigment, but this is a relatively slow process. Beneath the skin of a trout is a layer of guanin crystals in cells called guanophores. It is the guanin that gives the trout its silvery appearance. The pigment granules in the chromatophores (black, orange, or yellow) have several different shades of color and different combinations of these shades, together with the guanin, are sufficient to produce all the colors seen in a trout.

Posted on: 2009/11/5 18:55
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Re: Freestone vs. Limestone Streams (fish coloration,size and strength/weight) Long post

Joined:
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Speaking of cool looking browns i really liked these guys.

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All these fish above were caught in lightly forested freestone streams.


Now pay attention to the next 2 pics. I will show you the stream and then the brown. Look @ the dense forest and the color of the fish.

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I dunno why but i loved this guy.

http://i157.photobucket.com/albums/t7 ... 20cumberland/HPIM0771.jpg

God i love browns

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Those last five came from limestone spring creeks. Notice the last 3 are Letort Browns. See the spotting on the first 2 differ from the spotting of the last brown. Interesting. Also right click and enlarge the last photo. Look how bright the blue spot behind the eye is....on the other 2 Letort Browns the spot isnt as pronounced nor is their black spots. I wonder how much affect highly pressured fish over time adapt to having less spots and color in an attempt to hide.

Posted on: 2009/11/5 20:20
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Re: Freestone vs. Limestone Streams (fish coloration,size and strength/weight) Long post

Joined:
2006/9/9 20:09
From Harrisburg
Posts: 2198
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Dear Sal,

Nice pictures!

I happen to think that food sources and water condtions play the biggest role in coloration of fish, especially for trout but the same things apply for for bass and panfish in my experience.

I've caught both lighter and darker colored wild trout out of the same streams but the coloration most often seems to follow the same trends. By that I mean well shaded or tannin stained water almost always seems to produce darker specimens for me, while crystal clear open flat water seems to feature somewhat duller colored fish.

There is the occasional oddball like "Black Bart" that lived in a shallow riffle with a yellowish bottom on Spring Creek. He was black as coal and when he was just resting and staying still he looked like the bottom of an asphalt shingle laying on the creek bottom. He could be spotted in a riffle 20 years downstream on a regular basis. There were other trout in the riffle that you could occasionally see as they moved about, but Black Bart was always plainly visible.

In streams that have the capability to carry over fish on a regular basis as well as have a succesfull spawn the brook and brown trout in the Fall rarely look much like the silvery fish that were stocked in the Spring.

In the Fall after the great hatchery flood on Spring Creek I caught a good number of escaped hatchery brook trout that were every bit as bright and colorful as any brook trout I've caught anywhere else in the Fall.

I have a buddy who has a spring fed pond that has both bluegills and trout in it. The water is high quality and even in the hottest and fiercest summers it stays cool enough for the trout to survive. In the 20 years I've know him he's only had two or three years were he lost any trout during the summer and both of those years were severe drought years.

The water in his pond is almost the color of a 1/2 cup of heavy cream mixed with 1/2 cup of black coffee. Visibility is poor once a fly sinks 8 to 10 inches down into the water. The fish reflect that dull colored water. Spawning bluegills are pale and washed out even though they grow to exceptionally good size and spawn succesfully year after year. A typical male bluegill looks like he was dipped in household bleach during spawning season. During the Summer and Fall they are almost silvery.

The trout in his pond are the same way. All the fish are caught in local stocked streams and transported by the "bucket brigade" to the pond to live out the rest of their lives in relative solitude. There are both brook and brown trout in the pond and while there is no real outlet for them to run into to spawn they do gather around the main inflow pipe each Fall to go through the motions.

The trout do color up some in the Fall but they still look much like the bluegills, as if they were bleached.

I've caught enough trout out of darker tannic colored ponds in the Pocono's and upstate NY to know that the fish in them tend to be both darker and color up more during the spawn. I've noticed the same things in the bluegills I've caught in darker ponds.

We'll see what other's have to say, but like I said when I started to me at least the color and level of clarity of the home water seems to have a huge effect on the coloration of the fish that come out of it.

Regards,
Tim Murphy

Posted on: 2009/11/5 20:21
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Re: Freestone vs. Limestone Streams (fish coloration,size and strength/weight) Long post

Joined:
2006/10/26 11:34
From Gunpowder River, MD
Posts: 1704
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I spotted those Letort browns right off. Have you noticed the browns above Bonny brook look better then the ones below? All I remember reading about the spill of 1981 was that it wiped out ever thing below the bridge..Were the browns above the spill affected in any way?

Posted on: 2009/11/5 20:27


Re: Freestone vs. Limestone Streams (fish coloration,size and strength/weight) Long post

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From lancaster county
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Tim,

Good post! I find your findings @ your freinds pond interesting. The silvery fish in the dark pond is very interesting. Perhaps they get silvery so they can find eachother.

As you noted in the tannic waters its the opposite. The darker the water the darker the fish.

I wonder if the fact the trout in the pond are stocked and the tannic water brookies that are wild have any effect on this subject. Perhaps the wild fish need for survival has made them darker in such waters as to survive from predators better?

Good stuff

Posted on: 2009/11/5 20:31
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Re: Freestone vs. Limestone Streams (fish coloration,size and strength/weight) Long post

Joined:
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Quote:
I spotted those Letort browns right off. Have you noticed the browns above Bonny brook look better then the ones below? All I remember reading about the spill of 1981 was that it wiped out ever thing below the bridge..Were the browns above the spill affected in any way?


I dunno about the spill. I have noted the bonny brook fish do look a bit better. I think most of them are just older and smarter Ive seen browns up there that scared me.....they were that big and pretty. What the heck woulda you do if ya hooked one a Superfine is beyond me

Posted on: 2009/11/5 20:33
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Re: Freestone vs. Limestone Streams (fish coloration,size and strength/weight) Long post

Joined:
2008/3/20 16:37
From SCPA
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I too am not an expert. But as sundrunk stated, "did notice the Letort browns"
Coloration changes from steam to stream. I do know from a biologist that the coloration varies due to the Ph value. Spring creek trout have better color than other trout because of the Ph around 7.5-8.0.

Mike Heck,
Author, "Spring Creek Strategies"

Posted on: 2009/11/5 20:39


Re: Freestone vs. Limestone Streams (fish coloration,size and strength/weight) Long post

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2006/9/9 17:18
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Mike,

I love your book btw, colorful like the trout we are discussing and well written.

When you say colored up better how do you mean? More golden? More red spots? More black spotting?

Personally i like the dark browns from the well shaded lancaster county stream i posted more than golden browns. However i love the golden browns Brighter red spots. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Posted on: 2009/11/5 20:45
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Re: Freestone vs. Limestone Streams (fish coloration,size and strength/weight) Long post

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2006/9/9 20:09
From Harrisburg
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Dear Sal,

All the trout in the pond come from the same stream that gets stocked with brown and the occasional brook trout. The brook trout may come from a local co-op hatchery though? That stream also supports wild brown trout and several of the tribs to it support wild brook trout.

I have caught trout in the Fall in that stream that were definitely stocked but by that time they had colored up nicely. I have also caught wild trout in that stream and in the Spring there is no way to confuse them with a stockie. In the Fall the fins are the only dead giveaway that a fish is a stockie.

Regards,
Tim Murphy

Posted on: 2009/11/5 20:48
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Re: Freestone vs. Limestone Streams (fish coloration,size and strength/weight) Long post

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2009/8/12 11:55
From chester county
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Sal, great post! very informative and interesting. I agree with all that you say above, just going to add some things that I have noticed.

Coloration can vary significantly even within the same stream. Valley Creek brown trout, for example, have many different color variations. I've only fished it twice but caught enough to see these differences. One common variation, at least where I fish, has many spots and an overall light golden brown color. Another common one has fewer spots, and a darker brown on the back fading to a dark yellow. Some of these even have reddish-purple tones running right through the middle of their backs almost like a rainbow trout's stripe. And I have even caught one that had very few spots and an overall greenish sheen. I once saw one that looked jet black as well.

I think coloration is based on exactly where the fish hold, rather than one color prevailing throughout the whole length of a stream. As you have said, shady areas with a dark stream bottom produce dark fish. sunlight or a light bottom produces lighter colored fish. Notice in the pics below how the coloration matches the stream bottom. Its all about camouflage. One thing I always wonder about though, is how do bright red spots help trout blend in? I would think if you look at a trout from the side underwater the red would stand out. Same with red fins on brookies. Maybe it doesnt work on me because I know what to look for?

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Posted on: 2009/11/5 20:49


Re: Freestone vs. Limestone Streams (fish coloration,size and strength/weight) Long post

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Ya those are 2 very different looking browns Rookie.

I have OFTEN wondered about the bright red. Its amazing though how sometimes you dont know how pretty a trout is unless your underwater with goggles or holding them out of the water.

Some people have called me a Trout Whisper but ive never swam with them So i guess i like holding them more. Oh wait, does falling in the water count? My brother (Spectorfly) has said manytimes....its not a fishing trip till Brian falls in the water.

All kidding aside...i dunno if its combination of these or just one. Look @ these two trout. One a brook and one a brown. Both from the same stream. Is it how i positioned them, their size or what....but they look like they belonged in the same stream.

Note: the brown is one of those dark ones i just absolutely love.

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Posted on: 2009/11/5 21:12
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Re: Freestone vs. Limestone Streams (fish coloration,size and strength/weight) Long post
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Great post Sal, interesting subject. I've noted the same thing as Tim posted about his friend's pond. Fish living in murky water or holding deep where there is little light penetration tend to have a lighter, washed out coloration. I’ve fished in pea-soup murky waters where every fish caught has "bleached out" as Tim wrote.

Another scenario repeated many times was when fishing with a buddy in a boat, I FF of course, lol, and work the shallow areas while my buddy fishes deep on the other side of the boat. Many times I’ve noted the fish (usually LMB) I catch in the shallows have a dark coloration, while the fish taken deep have a lighter more washed out coloration.

So we can conclude that after diet and heredity, light penetration definitely has a bearing on fish coloration making it darker in lighter water and lighter in darker water. To be more precise, the colors really don't change though, just the hue.

Posted on: 2009/11/6 6:37


Re: Freestone vs. Limestone Streams (fish coloration,size and strength/weight) Long post

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For myself there is nothing much prettier than a headwaters Brookie.

Posted on: 2009/11/6 7:12


Re: Freestone vs. Limestone Streams (fish coloration,size and strength/weight) Long post
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Quote:

afishinado wrote:


So we can conclude that after diet and heredity, light penetration definitely has a bearing on fish coloration making it darker in lighter water and lighter in darker water. To be more precise, the colors really don't change though, just the hue.


Actually, hue is not the correct word. Lightness or brightness of a hue would be correct.

Posted on: 2009/11/6 8:22
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Re: Freestone vs. Limestone Streams (fish coloration,size and strength/weight) Long post

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2009/2/14 10:22
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Here is a picture to enjoy...size does not matter.

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jpg  DSCN0894 compressed.JPG (30.06 KB)
2101_4af42659d093a.jpg 448X335 px

Posted on: 2009/11/6 8:34
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