Tiger trout, a unique hybrid of a brook trout and a brown trout, are a very rare find in the wild. However, the strange mix is commonly stocked in ponds and reservoirs in the Catskills, where they can grow to 5-6 pounds or more. Distinguished by their odd looking, worm-like vermiculations, tigers are known as voracious predators. In recent years, there have been several naturally spawned specimens of the tiger trout taken on the Chubb River near Lake Placid. The fish in the photo is on display at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake, where many native Adirondack fish species reside inside a huge aquarium.
In recent weeks, I’ve been seeing a lot of sign of animals on the move. A vixen red fox has established a den in our back yard, much to the consternation of our German Shorthaired Pointer who can’t seem to mark his territory fast enough.
I swear he has lost 20 pounds in water weight in just the past week, and every morning he repeats the ritual. The fox leaves a slightly skunk smelling scent, and her straight-in-a-line paw prints have provided ample evidence of her evening hunts. So too do the scattered turkey feathers, from her most recent kill in the side yard.
Obviously, the poor lonely mother didn’t have a chance to return to her kill for scraps before an “unpleasant of ravens” descended upon the carcass to scavenge the turkey down to nothing more than feet, bones and a beak.
The slow transition from winter to spring is finally beginning to accelerate. Last weekend, the Harley riders were out with the throaty roar of their bikes echoing off the hills.
Surprisingly, there were also a few packs of bicyclists daring to travel the sandy edges of the busy local highways.
It appears spring puts everyone and everything on the move. Canada geese can be already be found on the Lake Flower in Saranac Lake, and bald eagles are regularly observed up and down the shores of Lake Champlain.
Birders are busy, counting off the growing flux of daily arrivals, whether it is a red winged blackbird in the marsh or a loon sighting on the ponds.
While on a quick jaunt into camp over the weekend, there were plenty of deer trails in the meager snow cover, as well as evidence of a fair share of fisher wanderings. Down by the stream, an otter slide appeared well used, and ducks had been on the open waters for well over a week.
The sweet scent of maple steam has been on the air for weeks, and it recently led me to stumble upon the latest maple concoction, a sweet nip of maple whiskey. I can’t say it is something I could drink a lot of, but it did serve a purpose as winter weather returned to produce another chilly spring day. The whiskey may not have warmed me up, but after a few nips, I kind of forgot about the foul weather.
An April fool
I knew it was too good to be true, but like a little kid listening for sleigh bells on Christmas Eve; I wanted to believe. I was sure it would happen again.
Two years ago, most Adirondack ponds had shed their icy hardtop by April 8. Then, in 2012, I enjoyed a leisurely troll around my favorite backwoods trout pond on April 1.
But like Lucy pulling the football away before poor old Charlie Brown could kick it, spring had failed to be sprung, and on April 1, there remained a 14-inch thick barrier of solid ice on the same ponds. I was again an April fool, albeit one with great hopes and high expectations. In the past few weeks, my dreams of being on the ponds for opening day had quietly dried up, even though the attendant snowpack had not diminished much.
I had gone through all of the usual motions. I strung up new line on all my spinning reels, cleaned the bearings and the gears, and oiled them to perfection.
The rods, which I had so carelessly stacked in the back of the garage last fall in a mad dash to transition from fishing season to hunting season, were delicately untangled.
I checked them for hairline cracks, and I carefully ran my fingers over each guide to assure a smooth surface, with no nicks or burrs to fray my lines.
I replaced the hooks on most of my lures, and changed all of the stock treble hooks with new, red colored, offset trebles. I even took the time to burnish the spoons with fine grit emery cloth and steel wool. It’s amazing how good they look with no rust, crud or dried weeds.
After sorting through a big pile of spoons and wabblers, I used some steel wool to polish the old wabblers, Hinkleys and Suttons into a big pile of shiny bright tackle. I even tried spraying a few of the brass and copper finished spoons with a clear acrylic finish.
Of course, I also left a good bit of the pile in the original condition. Fourteen inches of ice is not going to disappear overnight. What’s the rush?
My old pile of maps and charts of the ponds and lakes has gradually diminished to a select few favorites that I still take along, despite the addition of a portable depth finder that now provides me with a more accurate indication of the depths and lake contours.
But old habits die hard. I’ll always keep a few the old, hand-drawn maps that were scribbled on a napkin, or a piece of a brown paper bag.
They are relics from the old days, when I was the youngster on the annual fishing trip, and I keep ‘em in the tackle box just to keep me fresh, to help restore the my enthusiasm for the process of preparing to get out.
It’s a process I’ll repeat several times, well before I even get to wet a line. I’ll sort through the fly boxes, respool some reels with sinking flylines, and generally waste a lot of time that could be put to better use. But, there’s nothing more enjoyable than just puttering about while waiting to get out, and it is a ritual I’ll continue to pursue until the moment there are actually some fish to fill my time.
As always, the rivers and streams will take a while to warm up, and a lucky few anglers will hit the jackpot with a couple of battered old battle veteran holdover trout. The picking will be slim until water temperatures on the streams gets up into the 50-degree range.
The best bets will be found in deeper holding pools, where turbulent conditions pump warm air into the current, at the base of waterfalls, dams or serious rapids.
Anglers must fish slow and delicate, as trout will not be aggressively chasing food. It will have to bump them in the nose.
I’ll be interested to hear of any further reports of tiger trout caught in local waters. The odd hybrid is the result of a mixed breeding between brown trout and brook trout, and it usually occurs in waters that hold healthy, naturally spawned populations of each species.
It appears the Chubb River, which tumbles out of the High Peaks to flow through the middle of Lake Placid village. It is one of the most productive tiger trout waters in the region.
However, I’ve also received reports of tigers taken on the Little Salmon River and the St. Regis River. They are an odd looking specimen, and the only fish I ever saw was taken on the upper Chubb by a young angler who claimed he had caught “a striped fish, like a perch but it's much prettier.”
At the time, I was aghast to think that a perch had somehow managed to depart Mirror Lake, which connects to the Chubb River below the old Mill Dam. Fortunately, the perch turned out to be a wild spawned, native tiger trout.
I've had a few unpleasant surprises over the years while fishing for trout, and fortunately that episode was one that turned out to be quite the opposite of what it first appeared.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.