HOW TO GROW A TROUT
BY L.M. Buzz Lein
Year 1961 ,
Almost exactly one year ago, I went to a little creek just outside Beardmore to pick up my minnow trap. I was agreeably surprised on two counts – first, that the trap was still there, and secondly, because it actually contained minnows!
Carefully I lifted the trap and emptied the minnows into my bucket. As usual, I checked to see what I had. This time I was startled to see a small, 3 and a half inch speckled trout swimming around with the rest of the fish.
Now I have been setting my trap in this tiny wavering creek for years and had never even seen a speckled trout there, before. In fact, in over twenty- five years of setting out minnow traps, this is the first time I had ever caught anything but bait fish.
So there I was, hunkered down by the side of a small creek, trying to figure out where this little fellow had come from. If you could have seen the creek, you would have wondered, too. There was barely enough water in it today it was a creek. And further down stream, instead of getting bigger, it peters out altogether in a spruce swamp.
I really couldn’t throw this tiny fellow back because if I had he would have been domed. This creek runs out of water in mid-summer.
So, there I was, just admiring the sleek proportions of this colourful speedster, when suddenly a wonderful idea came to me. Why not take him (or her) home and put him (or her) in my daughter’s 8 gallon aquarium and see what happens?
And that is what was done. And that is why there is a story to tell.
When you are suddenly confronted with the job of “bull-cooking” for a small speckled trout you become painfully aware that you don’t know much about the habits of speckled trout. I referred to all the books I could find on “specks” and got no help at all.
To start with, measure out 3 and a half inches and see how small it is. The minnows we had were larger. Except for certain people of my acquaintance no one has minnows smaller than this.
The little trout adapted beautifully. The aerator didn’t bother him; neither did the temperature of the water. In fact, nothing seemed to bother him. The only one bothered was me. What was I going to feed him? Did I have to keep changing the water? What about the temperature of the water? Would tap water have an effect on him?
My fears were groundless. The trout ignored all these conditions and thrived mightily on a diet of small garden worms cut up into sections about a half inch long. One worm per day, please, and not a lumpy one.
You could almost see him grow. The pieces of worm got longer and longer as the little trout lengthened out.
The, when he got to be about 6 inches long, he would eat grasshoppers. But only those of a special shade of green and about three quarters of an inch long. If you haven’t tried to catch grasshoppers recently, believe me, it’s a lot easier when you are eight years old. Especially when you need five a day. And of a certain kind.
Somewhere along the line, the trout decided he liked small minnows, and, since he was big enough now to handle them, it was a lot easier to feed him. Three minnows per day did nicely.
Then winter set in and the food problem started up again. I managed to keep enough minnows over the winter to give him two a week. What to feed him between was a problem. Liver? He wouldn’t touch it. Hamburger? He wouldn’t even sniff it. Then one day I sneaked a tiny morsel of fresh beef from the cook, about one and a half inches long and as thick as a pencil, popped it into the aquarium and watched it disappear in a flash.
So the problem was solved. One live minnow on Wednesday and Sunday, delectable morsels of sirloin, T-bone, and porterhouse the rest of the week. And all that happened is that he (or she) is the fattest 10 inch speckled trout you ever saw… and one that has a penchant for showing off.
If this particular fish is a representative specimen, then a lot of things I have read about in regard to trout are wrong.
You’ve heard that story about trout swallowing minnows head first ? This one never heard of it. Tail first, head first, whichever way he grabs them – that’s the way they go down the hatch. But, he (or she) will not eat sticklebacks.
Trout need cool water to survive? Not this one. He lives in water that is near room temperature all the time. And, since my wife and daughter can’t see that 68 degrees is an invigorating temperature, the ambient room temperature must have been close to 72 degrees or at times even more.
Fresh water? Maybe. This 8 gallon tank is equipped with a filter and an aerator. The water was freshened up about once a month by drawing off about a pailful and replacing it with tap water – cold and unchlorinated.
This aerator is a must. If it gets shut off as it was accidently for about ten hours once the trout shows evident signs of distress.
And when Mr. Trout isn’t hungry he won’t eat. Any minnows swimming about are as safe as a church- until he recovers his appetite. Do you suppose this is why trout won’t bite delectable baits displayed for their enjoyment?
A trout’s eyes are not round. They are tetragonal with rounded sides and as black as sin. This one uses eye shadow, as there is a distinctly blue area immediately above the pupil. Must be a “she”?
The most sensitive part seems to be the tail. It is gossamer thin, alive with nerve endings. It is a treat to see the delicate and precise way that this tail is moved. Various sections of it seem to be capable of independent manoeuvering.
Trout in an aquarium are not noisy pets but they can be messy. Like the day the cat got up to lap up a little water. She stuck her nose into the feeding slit in the nylon net aquarium cover. The moment her nose touched the water, the trout hit it. The cat went one way – the fish to the far end of the aquarium, and about on half gallon of water went squooshing all over the living room floor.
Soon we’ll be faced with the prospect of having either to release him (or her) or to get a bigger aquarium. My daughter’s suggestion that we keep him in the bathtub didn’t get to the count down stage.
Right now the odds are that he’ll be released into Lake Nipigon. He may get a little hungry then, but he should be safe. None of my friends are any good at catching trout.