by Carl Hyland
As a fisherman and journo, I get to fish some great location in Tasmania and mix with all sorts of fish. Rainbow trout are an underrated sports fish and certainly aren’t bad on the plate either. Pound for pound, they are a class act on the end of a lure or fly or even the humble bait and worthy of doing battle with.
Tim Wright with a Great Lake Rainbow
In saying this, I still have a soft spot for the brown trout which are my favourite freshwater fish and I suppose I’ve been hooked on chasing them to the detriment of chasing rainbow.
The I.F.S hatchery at New Norfolk.
Tasmanian’s Inland Fisheries Service is now stocking waters around the state with rainbow trout, fry, and fingerlings and in some cases, ex grown on brood stock. This bodes well for future angling and if the fish are triploid, they put on fantastic weight gain and are all muscle.
Since the first successful shipment of brown trout eggs to Tasmania in 1864, successive generations of wild Tasmanian trout have been harvested as eggs, grown to fry and fingerling stage and released back into lakes and rivers throughout the State.
The growing of wild stock juvenile fish from eggs was previously undertaken solely at the Salmon Ponds, but in 2006, the Service built a modern recirculation hatchery facility at New Norfolk. The new hatchery commenced operating in 2007 and is capable of growing 500,000 fish per annum. It uses a water recirculation system, rather than a flow-through system used at the Salmon Ponds, with a bio-filtration unit for removing waste products and cleaning the water used in the fish tanks. It has enabled much greater control over fish growing conditions by maintaining optimal levels of water quality, temperature, light exposure and dissolved oxygen, and has allowed the Service to significantly reduce mortality rates and maximise fish growth rates compared with the operation at the Salmon Ponds.
Wild Stock Fish
The activity of harvesting eggs from wild fish, growing the stock to fry or fingerling stage of development and then releasing them back into the wild, has been undertaken since trout were first introduced to Tasmanian waters in 1864. Brown trout have not been domesticated in Tasmania apart from this short period of cultivation during the first stage of life and this species has never been commercially grown, harvested or sold except by the Inland Fisheries Service which has sole ownership for stocking of the public inland fishery.
The Service offers for sale surplus wild stock fingerling diploid and triploid rainbow trout. These wild stock fish have been grown to fingerling size (an average weight of 20 g) at the Service’s New Norfolk hatchery from Great Lake spawners. The Service recently purchased a customized ‘trout triploiding vessel’ from France and as a result of its success in triploiding wild rainbow trout ova, the Service is now in a position to also offer triploid rainbow fingerling for sale at the same cost as diploid strains. Anyone wishing to inquire about trout in Tasmania for stocking dams etc, should get in touch with the I.F.S. Inland Fisheries Services Tasmania
Rainbow trout are generally a ‘schooling’ fish. I find where you catch one, you will likely catch another. I remember a night trip to Briona at the Great Lake, where a mate and I sat through the night, fishing baits and soft plastics. Whilst the plastics did no good, our bardi grub baits were nailed at 1.00am in the morning by big, hungry rainbow trout. A succession of fish(all rainbow) of the same weight and size, led me to believe that these fish do school.
Interestingly, the I.F.S have put together a fact sheet on these great fish…Rainbow Trout. An IFS Recreational Angling licence is needed to take rainbow trout. Licences can be purchased from more than 130 agents located in retail businesses around the state. Licensing agents are primarily fishing stores but also include most trout guides, Service Tasmania outlets and the IFS head office. Specific fishing regulations for bag and size limits, and fishing technique (bait, lure or fly) may vary between waters.
Distingushing Features: Similar in general appearance to brown trout, although rainbows have a tendency to be deeper in the body. They also differ from brown trout in colouring and they have spots on the tail. Dorsal fin is high on the back and further forward than the pelvic fins. They have an adipose fin, a lateral line and small scales. The mouth extends back below the eyes.
The colour is variable, but often has a rosy, pink flush along the sides and on the gill cover. Lake populations are generally silvery, with a dark greeny back, with many small spots. Breeding fish tend to be more intensely coloured, as do those fish found in rivers.
Size:Can reach weights of over 20 kg and over 1120 mm in length. The record for the biggest fish caught in Australia is a 7.8 kg fish caught in the Ouse River, Tasmania.
General:Native to the west coast of North America and the pacific coast of North Asia (Siberia), this fish has been introduced into many countries around the world. It was first introduced into Tasmania via New Zealand in 1898. Occurs commonly around most of the state, but tends to be more successful in lakes than rivers. Self-maintaining populations are not common, and consequently many lakes and private farm dams are stocked for angling purposes. They are considered by many anglers to have better fighting qualities than brown trout. They also make-up an important part of Tasmania's fin fish aquaculture industry.
Life Cycle: Spawning occurs in spring when spawning fish migrate upstream to gravel bottom stretches of river. Fish pair up and eggs and milt are deposited into a depression dug by the female. These are then covered up by dislodging upstream gravel. The eggs generally hatch after four to seven weeks depending on water temperature, and hatchlings then stay in the gravel feeding off their yolk-sacs until they emerge as fry. They initially may form schools, but over the next year or two become solitary and territorial, as they move into deeper water. Maturity is reached after three years.
Habitat: Requires cool well oxygenated water, with adequate cover and shelter.
Diet: They feed on a wide variety of animals including crustaceans, molluscs, both aquatic and terrestrial insects and small fishes.
Tasmanian Distribution: Rainbow trout occur in several major highland waters, with supplementary stocking used to maintain populations. Lake Burbury on the West Coast has a large head of rainbow trout which were stocked when first flooded. There are several lowland lakes and numerous farm dams where rainbows are stocked periodically. There are very few riverine populations, with the upper sections of the Mersey and Vale rivers having self-sustaining populations. Elsewhere, rainbow trout occur in areas where fish farms escapees provide angling opportunities (such as MacQuarie Harbour on the West Coast).
Rainbow like pink lures, this time a Hueys Bardi Grub. picture by Kerry.
Rainbow trout are an aggressive fish. Browns tend to mooch along, minding their own business but rainbow are a different story. This means that brightly coloured lures, nice bright flies such as Red tag and Zulu are dynamite on this species. Of course, pink for some unknown reason is also favoured by this species.
Bladed lures will bring rainbow undone. Picture by Brenden.
I find also, bladed lures such as Celtas and Wonder wobblers are ideal for small stream fishing for rainbow. Flicked up into fast moving water then drawn back through still pools, will often bring savage strikes and takes even from fish not much bigger than the lure.
A Barrington male rainbow. Taken on a Hueys Christmas tree lure.
Waters such as Brushy Lagoon, Lake Barrington and Craigbourn Dam near Hobart are just a few waters that are stocked with adult rainbow, usually surplus brood stock. The stocking of these huge fish makes for exciting times for anglers and couple with salmon releases into the same water can often mean a take home trophy of both rainbow and Atlantic salmon