This topic is endlessly debated among anglers because it’s a big gray area. I bring it up this week because someone contacted me suggesting people stop fishing the Owyhee River because the river is low and the river’s brown trout are starting to spawn. Many anglers look down at others who fish during spawning season, but there’s very little consistency about it in the angling world. I’ve also seen several fishing reports from fly shops suggesting people fish streamers for brown trout during fall, which is basically a tactic to tempt them when they’re in an aggressive mood during spawning season. Some anglers consider that tactic unethical.
Fishing in rivers and streams is often closed during spring to protect spawning rainbows and cutthroats, as well as steelhead. But many of those same streams remain open during fall when brown trout are spawning.
Anglers who target warmwater fish tend to have a more lenient attitude about fishing during the spawn. Bass fishing during the spring spawn is not only accepted, it’s when many bass tournaments take place. Same goes for spring bluegill and crappie fishing, both of which spawn during spring. Ice fishing for perch is done during their winter spawning season, and so is winter whitefish fishing in streams.
Warmwater fish are different than trout because each female can lay thousands of eggs rather than hundreds, so spawning success is rarely an issue, and the survival of the young fish tends to drive the population. But you could make a strong argument that’s the case with many trout populations as well.
So is there a right or wrong answer when it comes to fishing during spawning season, or is a case-by-case basis?