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Anglers are spreading the word: tiger trout are a beautiful fish that put up a big fight. And they taste great on the table!
Photo by Brent Stettler
If you want to hook one of these fighters, you need to toss aside some of the techniques you've used to catch rainbow trout. Catching tiger trout requires understanding the fish and utilizing a new set of strategies and tactics.
A tiger trout is created by fertilizing a brown trout egg with brook trout milt and then heat shocking the egg. The result is a sterile hybrid whose appearance and behavior is a mixture of both species.
Since tiger trout are sterile (meaning they can't reproduce), all of the fishes' energy can be directed towards growing. This creates a fast growing and aggressive fish that's a great fighter.
Tiger trout are veracious predators. They prey heavily on small fish, including Utah chubs, redside shiners and other minnows. Because tigers favor natural foods, it's tough to catch them using PowerBait, marshmallows and other commercially prepared baits.
When you fish for tigers is also an important consideration. You'll find the most success fishing early in the morning or late in the evening.
Depending on the phase of the moon, nighttime can also be a good time to fish. Tigers will often feed at night when the moon lights up the surface.
Mid-day is the least effective time to fish.
Warm season fishing
As the temperature rises in the summer, tiger trout move into deeper, cooler water. Some tips for catching tigers in the summer are available below.
Fishing from the shore
If you're fishing from the shore, fish right at daybreak or as the sun goes down in the evenings. The water in the shallows is cooler during those times of the day. The cooler water draws tiger trout into the shallows to feed on bait fish.
When the fish move into the shore, fly anglers can do really well using large, silver streamers. Spin cast anglers can do well using a lure that imitates a minnow. A Rapala, for example, is a great lure for spin cast anglers to try.
During the middle part of the day, a sunburn is probably all you'll catch from the shore in the summer!
Fishing from a float tube or a pontoon boat
If you're fly-casting from a float tube or a pontoon boat, and the trout are rising to feed, use floating line with patterns that imitate the insects that are near the surface. These insects will include damsel flies, midges, mosquitoes and flying ants.
If an insect hatch is occurring, it can be tough to catch tigers: your fly will have to compete with all of the natural insects that are available to the fish.
If the trout aren't rising, fly anglers should try a wet fly weighted with sinking line. Effective warm-season patterns include dark-colored leeches, wooly buggers, minnow imitations, scuds and nymphs. Remember that these summertime fly patterns need to be tied on a hook size that's smaller than you'd use at other times of the year.
Spin-casting anglers can take advantage of the fact that tiger trout are vulnerable to spoons, spinners and lures that excite their aggressive nature. Be sure to fish in deep, cool water.
Fishing from a boat
Trolling for tigers is a great way to catch them from boats. Some anglers prefer pop gear coupled with a nightcrawler or a terminal lure. Lures and spinners used on their own can also be effective. The Jakes Spin-a-Lure is probably the best all-around lure for tiger trout. Other effective lures for tiger trout include Triple Teasers and Kastmasters.
If you like to still-fish, try dropping a dead minnow or a straight nightcrawler into cool, deep water. Then retrieve it back in a way that makes the bait look like it's alive.
Whenever possible, use a fish graph to locate fish or areas that have promising bottom topography and structure. Dropping your bait or lure into a school of fish or promising habitat will make a huge difference in your success rate.
Tiger trout have a pattern of wormy markings (known as vermiculations) on their back. These markings are similar to the markings on a brook trout. At times, the markings will be light on top with a dark background. At other times, the reverse is true — the markings will be dark and the background light.
The lower fins often have a white leading edge, and tigers have a squared-off tail.
On the underside of a tiger trout, the color can vary from a pale gold to a bright red. The richness of the color depends on the sex of the fish (males are more colorful than females) and the time of the year.
Tigers are the brightest in the fall, during their spawning period. In the winter, the species can appear grayish or brown. During this time of the year, the fish may also have dark, wormy markings over a silver background.
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