Difference between stock and wild browns

caeran

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As we know with the refraction effect and “ fish eye “ lens when we are standing near / in the river we can , to a fish, appear to be above the fish even if we are a few feet away from it.
Cast a line over fish and you are not likely to catch them is my experience - I tend to catch in the first couple of casts and then that stretch goes off so I move on


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Whinging pom

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This is a stocked brown...

Menteith30Jul20_0245.jpg


Pectoral fin is a bit ragged-edged to the rear, but it doesn't have the 'Harry Lauder's walking stick' leading edge. The dorsal fin is not prominent, but hopefully you can see the leading edge is rounded. Pelvic and anal fins also ragged-edged.

In common with some stocked browns, the spots are 'lumps of coal' type, though I would not call that a diagnostic - just something we often see.

Another stocked brown (one of a two's up with a rainbow!)...

Menteith28May19_3955.jpg


While its pectoral is not Harry Lauder's walking stick, you can see it is not dead straight, like a wild fish. The tail is quite rounded.

Another stockie brown...

Menteith22May19_2957.jpg


Another lumps of coal spots one. Dorsal is distorted. And this one does have a Harry Lauder's walking stick pectoral.

Compare with any wild brown...

Shinness-Jun18_7496.jpg


Shinness-Jun18_8050.jpg


Shinness-Jun18_8193.jpg


SutherlandJun2016_4951.jpg


Orkney2012_1777-crop.jpg


Orkney2013_2362.jpg


Orkney2013_2440.jpg


Orkney2013_2458.jpg


Shin2015_8798.jpg


And many more...

Col
Where on earth did the idea that wild fish fear things coming from above them? Explain, if you can, the browns on a river like the Teign in Devon feasting on caterpillars dropping from oak trees alongside the river. An imitation needed to drop onto the water with a "plop" and was immediately seized. Anywhere there are trees lining the river you will find trout waiting for something to drop from above whether it be a beetle, caterpillar or some other bug. The only fear those fish will have is that of some other fish getting it first.

You are telling us that trout are terrified of mayflies landing on the water which they often do in their attempts to take off. Same with daddy long legs. Explain too, how it is that wild trout are not merely attracted to the plop of things like sweetcorn hitting the water, but will engage in a feeding frenzy with several others. Trout, whether brown or rainbow, wild or stocked, are programmed to react to that "plop".

That theory is like the old saying that nymph fishing is unfair because it teaches the fish to bottom feed. Total rubbish.
Bob , your quite right . Beetles plopping on the water and insects drifting into the window are explored and taken as food. I plop beetle patterns just behind rising fish on the brook and they turn for it. I’m no authority on it but I’ve fished rivers in NZ where the local trout have become so used to catapilars from the willows it’s the main pattern during those months and the fish line up in the best lanes under the willows. I don’t think they’ll go charging into neighbouring territory though they just react to what drops in around them or drifts down into the window.

Things in the air appearing in the window; Birds; fly lines , even shadows of fly lines, moving fly rods ,will send wild Trout into caution mode. I’m sure you’ve experienced that sickening feeling when you realise you’ve put the fly line too far on the sunny side and spooked the fish with the shadow or a flash.
Years ago when we pushed hard to convince members about the benefits of not stocking. I was guided by suggestions on the forum here to look at works published in the states and either Australia or NZ on the observed effects of stocked fish on wild trout. That’s where I learned that nugget and along with my experience blundering along frightening trout I have seen no reason to doubt it. Our Quaries old instinct is to be cautious of attack from above. Kingfishers. Herons, terns, ospreys , and latterly fluff chuckers with waders.

The point I was trying to make is that mixing stocked fish and a native population benefits neither and that the native fish suffer and lose condition. In most cases the population will improve when stocking ceases unless like on areas of the Test where a recruitment of stocked fish will drop down from stretches of river above.

Good observations Bob, I should have described it better.
 
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kingf000

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This is a stocked brown...

Menteith30Jul20_0245.jpg


Pectoral fin is a bit ragged-edged to the rear, but it doesn't have the 'Harry Lauder's walking stick' leading edge. The dorsal fin is not prominent, but hopefully you can see the leading edge is rounded. Pelvic and anal fins also ragged-edged.

In common with some stocked browns, the spots are 'lumps of coal' type, though I would not call that a diagnostic - just something we often see.

Another stocked brown (one of a two's up with a rainbow!)...

Menteith28May19_3955.jpg


While its pectoral is not Harry Lauder's walking stick, you can see it is not dead straight, like a wild fish. The tail is quite rounded.

Another stockie brown...

Menteith22May19_2957.jpg


Another lumps of coal spots one. Dorsal is distorted. And this one does have a Harry Lauder's walking stick pectoral.

Compare with any wild brown...

Shinness-Jun18_7496.jpg


Shinness-Jun18_8050.jpg


Shinness-Jun18_8193.jpg


SutherlandJun2016_4951.jpg


Orkney2012_1777-crop.jpg


Orkney2013_2362.jpg


Orkney2013_2440.jpg


Orkney2013_2458.jpg


Shin2015_8798.jpg


And many more...

Col
Many thanks for this. From this and what I've read elsewhere the main, common difference seems to be the shape of the snout, wild fish being more pointed than stock fish. Other things like markings and fins seem to differ so much that it doesn't seem to be a general rule. Whether the fish in the river are 'genuine' indigenous wild trout - who knows? They have been stocking this river, and probably a lot others, for many, many years long before triploids and with fish capable of cross-breeding with the indigenous, so the gene pool is already mixed. Maybe that contributes to the difficulties of recognition in some rivers? I still think that if the majority of fish are wild trout, as some members think, then we should be seeing and catching far more trout below the size of the stocked fish. Just checked the latest catch returns: 2 wild <6", 34 wild between 6-12", 239 wild >12"; 1 stocked <6" (!!!), 132 stocked >12".

Whether you can stop stocking needs a lot of careful thought. One club I used to be a member of stopped stocking and it ended up turning it into a river full of small dace, roach and chub with just a few trout being caught, yet still charged the trout fishery premium. This is no different from my local free river that again used to be stocked, but stopped some twenty years ago and is now classified as a coarse river, with the coarse fishing close season applied and again, just the odd trout being caught. Another river I fish also stopped stocking a few years ago, but the native trout population hasn't dramatically increased, in spite of the riverfly partnership showing that there is loads of food.
 
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Whinging pom

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Without knowing your river it’s hard to know what improvements are needed. If you have 6 inch and anything with part markings then you have redds and fry habitat. Whether you have suitable juvenile and adult habitat, and what you need to do the rectify that can be found with a visit from the wild trout trust. I’m at the banks of our brook now this once straightened shallow stretch is now a series of pool and riffle created by the members fixing flow deflectors and trapping silt in the margins.
we started this by collecting brash that hedge layers were leaving around.
8AE440CF-17D7-4DD3-8193-6D83683D84CC.jpeg
I’ll try and attach a photo , but I think files too large .
 

Cap'n Fishy

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Many thanks for this. From this and what I've read elsewhere the main, common difference seems to be the shape of the snout, wild fish being more pointed than stock fish. Other things like markings and fins seem to differ so much that it doesn't seem to be a general rule. Whether the fish in the river are 'genuine' indigenous wild trout - who knows? They have been stocking this river, and probably a lot others, for many, many years long before triploids and with fish capable of cross-breeding with the indigenous, so the gene pool is already mixed. Maybe that contributes to the difficulties of recognition in some rivers? I still think that if the majority of fish are wild trout, as some members think, then we should be seeing and catching far more trout below the size of the stocked fish. Just checked the latest catch returns: 2 wild <6", 34 wild between 6-12", 239 wild >12"; 1 stocked <6" (!!!), 132 stocked >12".

Whether you can stop stocking needs a lot of careful thought. One club I used to be a member of stopped stocking and it ended up turning it into a river full of small dace, roach and chub with just a few trout being caught, yet still charged the trout fishery premium. This is no different from my local free river that again used to be stocked, but stopped some twenty years ago and is now classified as a coarse river, with the coarse fishing close season applied and again, just the odd trout being caught. Another river I fish also stopped stocking a few years ago, but the native trout population hasn't dramatically increased, in spite of the riverfly partnership showing that there is loads of food.

Over the years, pretty much every story I have heard involving stocking brown trout into waters already holding wild brown trout (in an effort to boost the head of fish) has ended with the conclusion that it does more harm than good. One might make a case for stocking isolated waters which have good feeding, but little or no natural spawning. This is done with some hill lochs... often with a bucketful of fingerlings once every so often. In today's age, you would surely not be allowed to stock the rivers of Patagonia, New Zealand, India, etc with an invasive species, which is what brown trout are in those countries! :oops:

It would be interesting to hear from someone with first-hand experience of a success story involving adding stockie browns to a wild brown population.

But anyhoo, this is not answering the OP's question, which was how to distinguish between stocked and wild brown trout.

More stocked brown photos...

Bent pectoral is a give-away...

9072.jpg


Deformed dorsal fin...

0494.jpg


The fins on this one aren't bad, apart from missing the top of its tail (also tail is rather short), but it is way fatter than a wild fish would be - fish farm feeding!

Cold07Jun15_6508.jpg


Compare with the proportions of this wild fish...

Carron15Apr17_1505.jpg


Rounded tail...

Coldingham14Aug16_7362.jpg


Bent leading edge of pectoral...

Coldingham08Oct2017_2177.jpg


Rounded snout...

Cold31Mar19_9353.jpg


Rounded tail and dodgy pectoral...

Frandy06Sep20_1684.jpg


A bit of everything...

Frandy06Sep20_1720.jpg


Rounded snout, shoulders like a bull, rounded dorsal and tail, and thickened and distorted leading edge to the pectoral.

And another from the same batch...

Frandy06Sep20_1771.jpg


Rounded dorsal and tail and a pectoral like Harry Lauder's walking stick.

Bear in mind that any stocked browns that survive for a year or so will repair damaged fins and lose their fish farm fat, and adjust their colouration to suit their surroundings. they may become indistinguishable from wild trout. I can't give you a known example of one, but I can with rainbow trout. These are stocked fish, but would you know they were not wild?

Trossachs26Apr17_1981.jpg


Trossachs24Jun19_6356.jpg


Col
 

Mr Notherone

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Some very good advice above, but the best way to spot stocked brown trout is that they are the fish all the old duffers are catching who still think stocking rivers is a good thing...:)
 

Mrwayne

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stocking fish is pathetic and should be stopped. your club is actively ruining it's own water and making the fishing worse except for old grandpa who just wants to land a 2 or 3lb stockie and go home.
 

kingf000

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Over the years, pretty much every story I have heard involving stocking brown trout into waters already holding wild brown trout (in an effort to boost the head of fish) has ended with the conclusion that it does more harm than good. One might make a case for stocking isolated waters which have good feeding, but little or no natural spawning. This is done with some hill lochs... often with a bucketful of fingerlings once every so often. In today's age, you would surely not be allowed to stock the rivers of Patagonia, New Zealand, India, etc with an invasive species, which is what brown trout are in those countries! :oops:

It would be interesting to hear from someone with first-hand experience of a success story involving adding stockie browns to a wild brown population.

But anyhoo, this is not answering the OP's question, which was how to distinguish between stocked and wild brown trout.

More stocked brown photos...

Bent pectoral is a give-away...

9072.jpg


Deformed dorsal fin...

0494.jpg


The fins on this one aren't bad, apart from missing the top of its tail (also tail is rather short), but it is way fatter than a wild fish would be - fish farm feeding!

Cold07Jun15_6508.jpg


Compare with the proportions of this wild fish...

Carron15Apr17_1505.jpg


Rounded tail...

Coldingham14Aug16_7362.jpg


Bent leading edge of pectoral...

Coldingham08Oct2017_2177.jpg


Rounded snout...

Cold31Mar19_9353.jpg


Rounded tail and dodgy pectoral...

Frandy06Sep20_1684.jpg


A bit of everything...

Frandy06Sep20_1720.jpg


Rounded snout, shoulders like a bull, rounded dorsal and tail, and thickened and distorted leading edge to the pectoral.

And another from the same batch...

Frandy06Sep20_1771.jpg


Rounded dorsal and tail and a pectoral like Harry Lauder's walking stick.

Bear in mind that any stocked browns that survive for a year or so will repair damaged fins and lose their fish farm fat, and adjust their colouration to suit their surroundings. they may become indistinguishable from wild trout. I can't give you a known example of one, but I can with rainbow trout. These are stocked fish, but would you know they were not wild?

Trossachs26Apr17_1981.jpg


Trossachs24Jun19_6356.jpg


Col
Yep, Many thanks. Lovely pictures. They haven't stocked yet this year so all of the stock fish will have over-wintered and probably changed in appearance and habits. 5 miles upstream and 2 miles downstream they don't stock and the river is mainly coarse fishing used by bait anglers.
I was looking back at the catch returns when they marked the stock fish with blue dye. The overall returns were around 1:1 marked (stock)/unmarked (wild), but one has to bear in mind that the blue mark on the overwintered stockies was often very difficult to see. By allowing the anglers to decide for themselves, the ratio has gone up to 1:2. The overall numbers of trout being caught are roughly the same.
 

Cap'n Fishy

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... the main, common difference seems to be the shape of the snout, wild fish being more pointed than stock fish...

I think there is a tendency for stocked fish to have a 'rubbed' snout - from fish farm density - often resulting in it being more rounded, but I wouldn't use that as a diagnostic - just something to look at, along with all the other indicators. Also bear in mind that males have more pointed snouts than females.

Brown trout...

Male...

Orkney2015_7315.jpg


Female...

9931.jpg


Sea trout...

Male...

3296.jpg


Female...

Lomond04May13_0763.jpg


Ferox...

Male...

Brian-0135.jpg


Female...

Achnacarry2016_2781.jpg


Col
 

kingf000

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I think there is a tendency for stocked fish to have a 'rubbed' snout - from fish farm density - often resulting in it being more rounded, but I wouldn't use that as a diagnostic - just something to look at, along with all the other indicators. Also bear in mind that males have more pointed snouts than females.

Brown trout...

Male...

Orkney2015_7315.jpg


Female...

9931.jpg


Sea trout...

Male...

3296.jpg


Female...

Lomond04May13_0763.jpg


Ferox...

Male...

Brian-0135.jpg


Female...

Achnacarry2016_2781.jpg


Col
Given everything I've read and seen on here, I doubt if anyone's identification of a 2lb brown trout would stand up to scrutiny in a court of law, unless the stocked trout are specifically marked. Though I'm sure many will be outraged by that comment.
 

sean freeman

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I suppose it depends how good the stockies are and their lineage. Some clubs will strip trout from their own waters and stock them in fairly low numbers as fingerlings, these fish can be near impossible to distinguish from a wild bred fish, it’s fortunate that the fish we get washing down the Wye are nothing like the wild fish and have the lumps of coal spot patterns and dye marks.

I’d rather not have to deal with them though, the Peacock stretch has been producing bigger wild fish year on year since stocking was ceased nearly twenty years ago. It’s got an incredible amount of fish per mile, if Cressbrook done the same I reckon they’d have incredible fishing in incredible surroundings in no time. They’re cutting back which is nice to see, I’ve only had one grown on fish this year so far.
 

kingf000

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I suppose it depends how good the stockies are and their lineage. Some clubs will strip trout from their own waters and stock them in fairly low numbers as fingerlings, these fish can be near impossible to distinguish from a wild bred fish, it’s fortunate that the fish we get washing down the Wye are nothing like the wild fish and have the lumps of coal spot patterns and dye marks.

I’d rather not have to deal with them though, the Peacock stretch has been producing bigger wild fish year on year since stocking was ceased nearly twenty years ago. It’s got an incredible amount of fish per mile, if Cressbrook done the same I reckon they’d have incredible fishing in incredible surroundings in no time. They’re cutting back which is nice to see, I’ve only had one grown on fish this year so far.
I've my name down for the Cressbrook club and was disappointed to find out that they stock to the extent that they did, but I can live with that for fishing in such superb surroundings. With perfect water like that for trout, I can't understand why stocking is done except for the reasons it is done on other expensive rivers, that people paying so much money, and not just old grandpas, expect to catch lots of big fish. I can understand why people fishing downstream, who only want to catch wild trout, can get peeved.

Personally, I'm not racially prejudiced against any trout - they are all trout to me and if people want to catch for the pot, I'd rather they did that with stocked trout. That said, in upstream stretches of rivers that easily sustain a good wild trout population, stocking just doesn't seem necessary. For other waters, stocking is necessary to maintain them as trout waters. However, there is a great tendency to over-stock, not helped by the cost of transporting fish meaning that stocking with fewer fish cost more per fish.
 

Cap'n Fishy

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Bear in mind that any stocked browns that survive for a year or so will repair damaged fins and lose their fish farm fat, and adjust their colouration to suit their surroundings. they may become indistinguishable from wild trout. I can't give you a known example of one...

Col

Actually, I remembered I had the ones below. These are fish from a club water - a small reservoir - that gets stocked once at the beginning of each season, and then left. Most fish are C&R, so the fish can survive for several years, if they are lucky. I don't know how long these fish had been in the water, but you can see they are looking more like wild fish than the obvious stockies I posted upthread...







Col
 

BobP

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whinging pom,

Don't get too hung up on the stock fish vs wild thing. I fish what is probably the best beat on the Kennet which is very well stocked with triploid browns. There is also a very good head of wild fish, and they are wild as diploid fish have not been stocked there for more than ten years. I caught a super little wildie on Saturday afternoon - a fish of about a pound, and according to my diary out of the 35 fish I have caught since the beginning of May - 6 visits - 8 were wild fish. 1 in just over 4 if my sums are right.

I think the Trout & Grayling Strategy has done a lot of good. Triploids tend to wander off and as they cannot breed it leaves a gap which the wild fish can exploit. As long as there are suitable spawning gravels and plenty of bankside cover the wild fish will do OK. Incidentally there are a good few wild trout on the Test as well, and a day guiding on the Itchen back in May showed me that there were plenty of wild fish only too happy to scoff mayflies.

As far as fish seeing things coming through the air, I fish a stretch of the Itchen for grayling in October and pray for cloud on my days. When the sun shines it is very difficult to get a fly to the grayling on the upper part of the beat as the fish see the line in the air and scatter. After midday when the sun has moved round or if it is cloudy then all is well.
 

eddleston123

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I rose a stocked fish once. When it felt the hook, it went wild!



Douglas

p.s. Seriously, Is it realistic to expect some river fisheries to rely entirely on 'Wild Fish' - It surely must all depend on the pressure put upon the water. Either, the membership must be cut, or there will inevitably have to be some element of stocking.
 

thetrouttickler

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The easiest way to differentiate between wild & stocked is to clip the adipose fins off the stock fish. Unmistakeable and doesn't grow back. Takes a few seconds per fish. It is a method used in many parts of the world, eg to distinguich between wild steelheand and hatchery reared.

Hi Bob, I was recently a guest at a private club who clip the adipose fins of their stocked trout. I caught a brown trout (larger than stocking size) and my host and I were initially rather excited to see its adipose fin, thinking it was a wild trout. But if you look closely at the fin in the image, it possibly has an unnaturally straight edge and my host told me that in the club's experience, they have seen fin growth in overwintered trout.

20210621_212923.jpg
 
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BobP

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I rose a stocked fish once. When it felt the hook, it went wild!



Douglas

p.s. Seriously, Is it realistic to expect some river fisheries to rely entirely on 'Wild Fish' - It surely must all depend on the pressure put upon the water. Either, the membership must be cut, or there will inevitably have to be some element of stocking.
A very good point, Douglas, and extremely pertinent where chalkstreams are concerned. Anyone who knows anything about fisheries management is aware that chalkstreams are not the best habitats for large scale successful recruitment and never have been which is why they have been stocked for the last 150 years or so. They attract heavy angling pressure due to their historic importance which adds to the problem. Without stocking they would cease to exist as viable trout fisheries. Cutting memberships would result in those remaining paying increased fees, as the landowners would still expect the rents to be paid.

Many freestone rivers could not survive the sort of angling pressure that is put upon chalkstreams, especially during the peak mayfly season. Stocking has been reduced on the beat that I fish, and that coupled with increasing C & R is resulting in some exceedingly wary fish.
 

sewinbasher

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One of the factors affecting stocking is that most clubs are democracies that need a minimum number of members for financial viability. Most of these members are by definition of "average" or lesser ability and need to catch a trout to have a "good" day, but can find the wild trout a bit challenging so they often require the club to stock some "easy" trout of keepable size to satisfy this need.

My club tried to stop stocking in 2003 but had to compromise by stocking a few at the top end of their 4 mile stretch. Members are only allowed to kill dye marked fish and the result over nearly 20 years has been effectively 100% catch and release of wild fish, an increase from about 25% to 85% in the percentage of wild fish in the total catch, a sharp increase in the number of large (14"+) wild fish, some bigger fish than ever before and a full membership with a 10 year waiting list. On balance we feel that stocking a few triploids has been a reasonable compromise.
 
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grandad keith

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My club has just asked us to differentiate between stocked and wild trout in our catch returns. I've never really bothered before as I don't kill any river trout I catch. I've always assumed that stocked trout have no or very few red spots, but using this recognition I seem to be catching many times more stocked fish from the same stretch that the majority of fish caught are reported wild. The only thing I can think of is that I am thinking fish with very few red spots are stocked, whereas others regard them as wild. Another thing is that many of the fish are about the same size, whereas I would have thought wild trout would vary considerably in size. Other differences such as shape of mouth and markings on the fins seem to be much more subtle to detect, especially as I normally unhook trout in the water without touching it by grasping the fly and giving it a quick twist. So does anyone have any comparative pictures of stockies vs wild?
IWhat is a wild fish ? on most of the Yorkshire river I have fished ,stocking has taken place over many years,and up until the recent EA rules, they were stocked with fish that could interbreed. So the intention of the EA ruling never made sense,, ie what genetic integrity were we protecting ?
 

BobP

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IWhat is a wild fish ? on most of the Yorkshire river I have fished ,stocking has taken place over many years,and up until the recent EA rules, they were stocked with fish that could interbreed. So the intention of the EA ruling never made sense,, ie what genetic integrity were we protecting ?
As much as possible is the answer to that one. And down here in chalk country I'd say it is working rarther well given the number of natural browns being caught and returned.
 

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