Spawning Rainbow Trout

In early May, I set out with my friend Yvonne in search of spawning rainbow trout on the shores of Georgetown Lake in Southwest Montana. I had filmed and photographed the spawners before but this year was special. I had several new underwater cameras and Yvonne and I planned to stay overnight at the lake to maximize camera time underwater.

Above and below water on Georgetown Lake during the rainbow trout spawn

Rainbow Trout Just Under the Surface of the Lake

Hundreds of Rainbow Trout

We were delighted to see so many rainbows along the shoreline in the throes of the spawn. My cameras have about 2 hours of battery life so after a couple of hours, I pulled the cameras, put in fresh batteries, and then placed cameras in a small stream that also attracts spawners.

When filming fish underwater, I quickly set the camera being careful not to step on the redds. I use an extended gripper to minimize the impact on the trout and stay out of the water as much as possible. Then I leave. After I’m sure the battery life has been expended, I return and quickly collect the cameras.

The 7 Gables Resort

We stayed at the 7 Gables Resort just across the street from the lake. They offer motel rooms as well as a restaurant with views of the lake. To our surprise, there was music and a full bar that evening. Lots of fun!

female rainbow trout heavy with eggs

Female Rainbow Trout Heavy WIth Eggs

worn male spawning rainbow trout

Worn Male Spawner

Closed to Fishing

Montana Fish and Wildlife protect the spawning rainbow by closing the shoreline along the roadway and into Stuart Mill Bay during the spring spawn. Numerous signs at boat launches and turnouts provide details of the closure.

In spring many people come to watch the fish along the lakeshore, in the tributary streams, and in a spring where trout swim under the road in a culvert to reach it.

Group of rainbow trout examining the underwater camera

A Curious Male Inspects the Camera

rainbow trout filmed while spawning underwater

Females Stack Up Over a Redd

Each Trout is Unique

Part of my attraction to underwater photography is “getting to know” the trout. Each one has unique identifying features and characteristics. Take a moment to really look at the photos below and you’ll see for yourself.

Notice the spots, some are large, some are small. The tail fin also holds unique characteristics – shape, coloration, and spotting. The mouth holds clues to the sex of the trout. Females have smaller, perfectly proportioned mouths whereas a male’s maxilla is pronounced, often has a kype, and is generally more worn than a female’s.

Male rainbow trout with a wound swimming behind another trout with a tattered tail

Scars and Tail Damage

Rainbow trout stacked on a redd during the spawn

Close Quarters on the Redd

Underwater Photos of Spawning Rainbow Trout

All photos copyrighted, all rights reserved.