Almost all smaller rainbow trout have “parr marks” on their sides. This is one of nature’s camouflage techniques. When any type of fish has just hatched, they are food for so many other fish, animals, birds, etc. These black markings and spots are just another way to help hide these fish from other predators.
They are primarily found in shallower water and as they grow rapidly, they move into deeper water, losing those parr marks along the way.
However, if you’ve been fishing the creeks and streams that feed the Kern River, chances are you’ve already caught some smaller rainbow trout with these tags. Most of these fish are caught in shallow, narrow streams with crystal clear water and deeper ponds.
These smaller fish are extremely struggling for their size, which is incredibly small, but how old are they, and did they come from fish swimming and spawning upstream?
The answer to these questions is not so easy to explain, but it is important to understand if you want to catch more fish. The smaller and narrower the stream, the more difficult it is to catch these wild trout, and even more difficult if that stream or stream has very little aerial cover such as trees and brush.
Becoming the “ninja” and being able to sneak into this type of water is half the battle. The other half is deciding which fly or lure will work best because once your offering hits the water, the fish get spooked.
Kern River rainbow trout are found primarily upstream of the Johnsondale Bridge, where natural water barriers prevent stocked trout from spawning upstream. Most of the creeks and streams that feed the Kern River are the same way; there are natural barriers that limit trout breeding upstream.
So how do these smaller, brightly colored rainbow trout get to these streams and creeks? They have been there for a long time and are simply continuing to do what nature tells them to: survive, reproduce and continue to grow to adapt to their environment.
Local biologists in this region know that just because this little rainbow trout is only 8 inches long, brightly colored, and has large dark markings all over, this fish can be many years old. The signal does not normally fade in the wild trout found in these smaller streams; nature hides them.
Larger rainbow trout found throughout the Kern River lose these protective camouflage marks as they age, the more water they move and hide, and the amount of food they consume. The bigger the water, the bigger the food source and the bigger the fish that live in it.
Stored trout do not have these parr marks most of the time. Some stocking programs include “fry” as part of the stocking program. Just be careful when picking up these little ones; they are part of a fragile ecosystem.