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Temperature and Trout

 

The summer weather predictions for most of North America, which seem to be holding true so far, are for hot and dry summer conditions. In fact as I write this the province of Alberta is headed into 10 days of 30C temperatures. The western United States is also experiencing heat waves. This is not good news for trout that prefer cold water temperatures.  Combine this with the influx of new anglers due to COVID and it leads to overheated and overfished trout streams. There are ways you can avoid both the crowds and stressing out the trout struggling with higher water temperatures.


During hot weather trout will seek out cooler, more oxygenated water.

During hot weather trout will seek out cooler, more oxygenated water.

Trout are cold blooded creatures, which means that water temperature controls their body temperature. When temperature rise, 7C to 18C the trout's metabolism increases and they will actively feed, once that 18C temperature is reached their metabolism slows and feeding diminishes. The warmer the temperature the less oxygen is in the water, sustained periods of high water temps affect growth rate, strength and digestive functions and ultimately mortality starts to occur.

The ideal water temperature to find feeding Rainbow trout is between 11C and 18C. Cutthroat and Bull Trout like it cooler and Brown trout will tolerate warmer temperature. When temperatures become too high not only will trout become lethargic and stop eating but they will often abandon their normal territory and seek colder water. Once water temperatures go over 18C trout will start to get stressed and hooking and fighting trout at these water temperatures will likely increase mortality rates.


 Careful handling will help with a successful release.

Careful handling will help with a successful release.


During midsummer the state of Montana institutes what it calls "Hoot Owl" regulations on several of its’ rivers. Fishing is closed each day at 2:00 pm and remains closed until midnight. These restrictions allow anglers to catch and release trout before the water gets too warm and puts undo stress on them. With water temperatures swinging as much as 12 degrees Fahrenheit in one day this gives the trout a rest during the warmest part of the day. Even if you are fishing where it is not the law anglers should be very conscious of water temperature when they’re fishing and consider taking a break if it gets too warm. Carry a thermometer with you and check the water temperatures regularly, temperatures can change greatly over the course of the day measure it often and consider quitting once the stream temperature gets past the 18C mark.

 

 

Streams that have had streambank restoration are likely to have lower water temperatures.

Streams that have had streambank restoration are likely to have lower water temperatures.

There are certain areas of rivers and streams that will provide the angler with opportunities even on the hottest days. There are also types of rivers and streams that provide cooler temperatures and higher oxygen levels than others. Spring Creeks, which originate underground, are often cooler and more temperature stable than freestone creeks and they often have undercut banks which provide shade from the hot sun.  Even they will warm up as they travel downstream so the closer to the headwaters you can fish the better. Tail waters below bottom draw dams are always good areas as the water is usually coming out of the dam at quite a cool temperature. Streams with heavy cover that provide shade can also be cooler than those with little or no shade.

Tributaries are often, but not always, cooler than the main branch of a river or stream and are worth checking out. If possible consider fishing further upstream, closer to the headwaters, while the trout may be smaller, but still a lot of fun and  the amount of other anglers you will run into will often be reduced. Underground springs also occur and will certain areas of streams, taking  the stream temperature often in different locations will help you locate these areas.

Oxygen also plays a big part when water temperatures rise. Warmer water contains less oxygen and causes trout to stress. The warmer the water the more oxygen trout need. Look for areas such as waterfalls, boulder gardens, below dams, anywhere that the water gets aerated and more oxygen gets introduced into the water. The angler should also consider fishing early morning and in the evenings to take advantage of the trout when they are most active, and the cooler water temperatures will cause less stress on the trout.

Areas that have had stream bank protection or rehabilitation are also good places to target. These areas  have often had trees and shrubs planted that provide shade and keep the sun off the water. These areas  tend to have less widening and shallowing of the stream due to livestock, tree and shrub removal etc. Keeping the stream narrower and heavily shaded can make up to 10C difference in water temperature. Adding boulder gardens will help aerate the water providing much needed oxygen as well as places for insects to live.

 

Tailwaters below dams will often have cooler more oxygenated water, and crowds.

Tailwaters below dams will often have cooler more oxygenated water, and crowds.

The latest mantra on the social media sites these days is "keep them wet" which refers to the trout you have caught and are releasing. It is always important to handle any trout that you plan to release carefully and get them back in the water as quickly as possible. If you need to take a photo keep the fish in your net under the water and have everything ready before lifting him up for a quick photo. With warm water temperatures it is even more important, or if it has been a long fight consider forgoing the photo and concentrate on reviving the fish and releasing it as quickly as possible. Trout build up lactic acid when stressed and even though they might look fine swimming away too much stress and they may not survive. With less oxygen in the water it is like you working out at higher elevations, it becomes much harder to recover and catch your breath due to the lack of oxygen.

 

Keep your catch as wet as possible after you have landed it.

Keep your catch as wet as possible after you have landed it.

The length of time you fight a trout is also of importance. This is not the time for light rods, leaders and tippets. You should be fishing with equipment that is going to let you expedite the fight and land and release the fish as quickly as possible. Fluorocarbon leaders and tippets will let you use a little larger size than normal due to their invisibility. Play your catch quickly, like I always say, "Land it or lose it"

 

You may have to head to the lakes if the trout streams get too warm.

You may have to head to the lakes if the trout streams get too warm.

At some point you may have to just give the rivers and streams a rest and fish trout lakes or even target warm water species such as Walleye and Pike. Don’t despair fall will be here before you know it along with cooler temperatures and hungry and hopefully healthy trout.

 

 



Previous Fishing Articles
(1) Falling for Cutthroat
(2) New Water and Old Friends
(3) My McLeod
(4) Temperature and Trout
(5) On the Road Again
(6) Tips That Will Make You a More Successful Fly-Fisherman
(7) 5 Ways to Catch Your Trout
(8) The Difference Maker - Reading Trout Stream Waters
(9) Rollin’ on the River
(10) Windy Day Pike
(11) Cures for Cabin Fever
(12) Snowbirding with a Fishing Rod
(13) Alberta’s Spring Creek Browns - Blessings and Curses
(14) A day on our foothill streams
(15) Fly Fishing Crowded Waters
(16) Fly Leaders
(17) In the Zone
(18) Learners Permit
(19) Flies of Summer
(20) Selecting the Right Boat
(21) The Italian Job
(22) Making a difference
(23) Pass the Salt
(24) Hopper Time - Fly-fishing’s Second Season
(25) Pike on the Fly - Fishing New Waters
(26) Fall brings the big walleye out
(27) Hoppertunity Time
(28) Becoming a Better Dry Fly Angler
(29) Make Your Own Fishing Adventure
(30) Early Season Fly Fishing
(31) Walleye Logic
(32) Fly Fishing in the Desert
(33) Grammy’s Fish
(34) Top 10 Trout Lures
(35) All I Want for Christmas – Neil Waugh's Yule Tide Fishing Gifts Wish List
(36) Muskies - The Ultimate Predator
(37) What to expect when fishing the West Coast
(38) Tips & Tricks for Fall Fly Fishing
(39) There’s No Place Like Home
(40) A Golden Opportunity
(41) The Observational Trout Fisherman
(42) Un-matching the Hatch
(43) Alberta Super Bugs
(44) Glass is Back
(45) The Bull Trout of the Athabasca
(46) Speed Kills
(47) Entering the Twilight Zone
(48) Old Man River
(49) The Pink Salmon of the Squamish River
(50) Small stream BT fishing
(51) Fly fishing beyond Trout: getting started
(52) In The Walleye Zone
(53) Zoo Trout
(54) Fly Selection for Beginners
(55) Fly Fisher's Christmas
(56) New Waters
(57) Big Bad Burbot
(58) Looking Back
(59) Out of Africa
(60) Finding Success on Crowded Trout Streams
(61) Mountain Peaks, Fast Streams, Fall Colours And Rocky Mountain Whitefish
(62) The Browns of Autumn
(63) Fly-Fishing Pike Through The Seasons
(64) Walleye Town
(65) River Fun - One Bite At A Time
(66) Fly Fishing Larger Rivers
(67) Going With The Flow
(68) Becoming A Better Fly Fisherman
(69) Swinging The Fences
(70) A View From The Aerie
(71) Dixieland Delight
(72) Atlantic Salmon - The Fish of 1000 Casts
(73) Do It Yourself Pink Salmon
(74) Montana's Cool Missouri
(75) Pretty Is As Pretty Does
(76) Toothy Critters
(77) Hard Water Lakers at Cold Lake
(78) Top Ten Flies
(79) Northern Exposure
(80) Home Water Lessons
(81) Chicken Of The Sea
(82) Sealing the Deal – How to Ensure You Land More Fish
(83) Deep In The Heart Of Texas
(84) Keep It Up!
(85) River Fishing for Fall Walleye
(86) After the Flood - A look at Southern Alberta rivers and streams one year after the 2013 flood
(87) Reindeer Lake - A Diversity of Opportunity
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(89) Saltwater Salmon
(90) Early Season Dry Fly Fishing
(91) Down a Lazy River - A Fly-rodding Adventure on the Lower North Saskatchewan
(92) The Fly Fishing Season Ahead
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(94) FISHING CANADA'S PRAIRIE CITIES
(95) Bright Fish from the Land of Silver
(96) Canada's "Other" Salmon
(97) Fall Walleye
(98) Wet Flies
(99) Versatility the Key to Success
(100) Grayling of the Boreal
(101) Teaching Kids To Fly Fish
(102) Size Matters
(103) Fly Fishing Small Streams
(104) Chasing Winter Whites One Lake At A Time
(105) Manitoba's Fishing Jewel
(106) The Twelve Gifts Of Christmas
(107) The Point Of It All
(108) Fishing With Friends-Big Weather Seizing The Day
(109) Fall Fly Fishing
(110) Personal Pontoon Boats 101
(111) Big River, Big Fish
(112) Bottom Bonanza
(113) Fishing Small Flies
(114) So Many Choices, So Little Time
(115) Four Seasons of the Bow
(116) Favourite Lakes - Some Like it Hot
(117) GEARING UP FOR SMALL STREAM TROUT
(118) Trout Hunting New Zealand style
(119) Don’t Leave Home Without Them – 10 Lures That Should Be In Everyone’s Tackle Box
(120) Edge Walleye
(121) FLY FISHING STRATEGIES FOR HIGH WATER
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(123) Four Corners – Four Waters
(124) Chasing Pothole Trout
(125) Springtime Stoneflies
(126) The Torrents of Spring
(127) Drift Boat Fly Fishing
(128) Bust Them With Bait
(129) Cure the Winter Blues with a Good Book
(130) Hot Strategies for the Cold Months
(131) Cutthroat: The Angler's Trout
(132) Terrestrials
(133) Fly In For Fishing Fun
(134) Rocky Mountain High
(135) Reading the clues
(136) Where the Trout Are The art of locating feeding trout in rivers and streams.
(137) K.I.S.S. and Tell Fly-fishin
(138) Fly Fishing 101
(139) To Catch a Big Halibut, or Ling Cod
(140) The Bountiful Bones of Ascension Bay
(141) Grayling in the Eye of the Beholder
(142) Fly Fishing for South Fork Clearwater Steelhead
(143) Manitoba's Red River - North America's Catfish Capital
(144) Eliminating the Spook Factor
(145) Trust Your Electronics
(146) The Most Important Hatch of the Year
(147) Early Season Nymph Fishing for Trout
(148) Finding Success for Ice Trout
(149) Walleye can be Humbling
(150) The Secret to Landing the Big One Finally Revealed
(151) Winter Flyfishing
(152) North Saskatchewan River - An Underutilized Fishing Gem
(153) Hot Fall Pike Action
(154) Tips and Tricks to Save the Summer Slow Down
(155) Reading Trout Stream Waters
(156) Frequently Asked Questions
(157) Streamer Fishing for Larger Trout
(158) The Lure of Big Walleye at Last Ice
(159) Deep Water Perch
(160) Post Spawn Brookies
(161) A Fisher's Life
(162) The River's Last Stand
(163) The Big Ones Come out at Night
(164) Coho on the Coast
(165) Chasing and Catching Halibut
(166) Summer in the Mountains
(167) Peak Walleye Season
(168) Slow and Steady Wins the Race
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(170) The Burbot Event
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