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ID'ing fish in the water

Joined:
2013/10/7 20:06
From Chester County
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Hello all,

I am pretty new to fly fishing, but have caught the addiction. I have recently fished Ridley Creek and Spring Creek (Bellefonte area) and had some mild success. The one main problem I am having is identifying which fish I am seeing in the water. How do you determine what is a sucker or creek chub from what is a trout? I have a good pair of polarized glasses, but I feel I am wasting some of my time trying to catch the wrong species.

It seems most suckers swim in schools, but I have read that some larges browns will also swim in a similar school. Do you have any tips to share that would help me identify what fish I am looking at?

Any tips will be appreciated, thanks in advance.

Posted on: 2013/10/7 20:16


Re: ID'ing fish in the water

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Hmm. Specifically identifying trout from suckers is pretty easy once you observe each species for a bit. Suckers tend to hug the bottom in slow moving runs/pools. They are almost always in pods/schools in numerous numbers. Dont let this discourage you from fishing these areas though! I have caught very nice trout out of those big schools of suckers on spring creek. This is especially the case when the suckers spawn and the trout stage behind them. I would say the main difference in the two fish is body shape. A sucker is thicker around the head and shoulders and tapers off towards the tail. A trout will taper from the middle to the nose and from the middle to the tail. I hope that makes some sense. The fins differ as well.

Right now the water is super clear on spring. I was there 2-3 weeks ago. Sit and watch the fish. I was able to count spots on the browns from 15-20' away when i was there. Under these conditions, it becomes quite clear which is which. Suckers do not have stripes or spots.

Posted on: 2013/10/7 20:31


Re: ID'ing fish in the water

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Suckers have a broader head, usually the body tapers back from the head, you can usually see their mouth, and they stay down in the water column.

If you can clearly see an adipose fin you know it's a trout. For brookies look for the vermiculars and the white tips of the fins. For browns look for the dark markings on a light background. Rainbows look for the stripe.

Posted on: 2013/10/7 20:34
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Re: ID'ing fish in the water

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2013/10/7 20:06
From Chester County
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Thanks for the advice. I guess most of the knowledge will come from experience with watching and catching the fish. Thanks again for your help, best of luck.

Posted on: 2013/10/7 20:35


Re: ID'ing fish in the water
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2006/9/9 17:32
From Gettysburg
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Yep - what Pwk and Brookiechaser said.
It just takes practice.

Suckers are pretty much always on the bottom. Trout lay on the bottom a lot too but sometimes suspend or lay up just under the surface. If the fish is just under the surface, it's almost certainly a trout (or some fish other than a sucker).
When I see fish on the bottom and want to identify whether they're trout or suckers, I look at the profile: trout generally have smaller, rounder heads, somewhat like the end of a cigar, whereas suckers have the larger, somewhat triangular head with the under slung mouth.

Posted on: 2013/10/7 21:05


Re: ID'ing fish in the water

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There are lots of suckers in Spring Creek, but I recommend totally ignoring them.

Just fish the water. There are trout in every pool and pocket.

Posted on: 2013/10/7 22:32


Re: ID'ing fish in the water

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2008/1/31 17:19
From Pretty much everywhere at some point, Thorndale today.
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I don't fish Ridley much, but on Spring Creek, fish likely looking water. There are trout there, whether you see em or not, and typically you don't. There are trout EVERYWHERE on Spring Creek. The only cases where you do see them are cases where you either spook them, or they are up in the water column actively feeding. In which case, there's no doubt that they are trout.

Telling them apart by shape is tough, but can be done if you see them well enough. Suckers are darker colored and tapered, meaning wider at the head and taper back like a triangle. More often, you tell them apart by behavior. Suckers will be on the bottom, in deep, slow areas. Often in large pods, and they aren't real active. Though they roll around some, which gives you a "flash". So when you nymph a deep pool and see that silver flashing down there, that's typically suckers.

Trout are spread out more. There might be 1 or 2 right in that pod of suckers. But there'll be more circling the edge of that pool, where the banks rise up. Also around structure. Very commonly at current breaks, sitting in slow water but very close to fast water. They usually hold at least a little up in the water column, but at certain angles it can still look like on bottom. They also move on their own more often. Kind of spastic. "I wanna be over there, hold, hold, ok, I'm gonna move over there, hold, hold, eh, that first place was better afterall."

Brook trout can be identified with those white tipped fins. Often, they are splayed out, and look like a freakin shark in the water.

Posted on: 2013/10/8 8:42


Re: ID'ing fish in the water

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2012/10/24 19:22
From Landenberg, PA
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That spastic description is spot on - I saw a pod of suckers below the grated bridge on the little Leigh and there were two smallish trout with them doing exactly that.... The suckers were chilling and the browns were constantly spazzing around.

I do find it difficult when there's just 3-4 fish though - like in the frog water at valley creek above the dam.... If its a single fish it's always a trout, but a small pod of different sized fish, I'm never sure til I've got out of water for a better look.

Dave Whitlock (and others) recommend a small pair of binoculars for exactly that.

Atb

Posted on: 2013/10/8 12:18
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Re: ID'ing fish in the water

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2012/10/24 19:22
From Landenberg, PA
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Btw aren't there suckers with a bold black stripe in the NE ?


Edit: I googled it - white suckers in spring have a black stripe.


Posted on: 2013/10/8 12:20
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nowhere is so sweet, as the bosom of the vale where the bright waters meet.


Re: ID'ing fish in the water

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2013/10/7 20:06
From Chester County
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Thank you everyone for your input. What you all have said makes sense and it will definitely help me when I get back on the water. Thanks again.

Posted on: 2013/10/8 19:41


Re: ID'ing fish in the water

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Skillbillie: Don't bother looking for the fish; if you can see them, then there is a good chance that they can see you or hear you, or will do so in very short order. It is best to be able to identify good fish habitat and typical fish lies, then fish blindly to the habitat while assuming that there is a good chance that the habitat is occupied. Obviously, this is not the case with rising fish.

Posted on: 2013/10/8 23:52


Re: ID'ing fish in the water

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2006/9/13 10:18
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Plus 1for Mike's comments, I always look at habitat first then look to see if there are fish rising or otherwise moving. But I will say this, fish hugging the bottom are usually suckers, especially if you are seeing feeding activity on the bottom.

Posted on: 2013/10/9 12:17
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Re: ID'ing fish in the water

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Mike and Chaz hit the nail on the head. I hardly ever see the fish before I catch them (rising fish being the exception). If I do see the fish, 9 times out of 10 I spooked them.

Learn trout habitat and potential lies. Fish those areas like a fish is there.

Posted on: 2013/10/9 14:53
_________________
"I think I fish, in part, because it's an anti-social, bohemian business that, when gone about properly, puts you forever outside the mainstream culture without actually landing you in an institution." John Gierach






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