“A sudden shift from the wind and my indicator disappeared into the abyss, followed by a strike that nearly made me flip my kayak and forced me to fall back into my seat. An orange tail splashed widly, throwing water of the surface. That parrot-beak kype, the inferno of colors and that perfect trout boxiness was before me.”

What The Heck Are Tiger Trout?

Few fish in this world are more beautiful and aggressive than the ‘Frankenfish’ hybrid that is a tiger trout. From the maze of vermiculations over a blanket of wild color that range from sunset pinks and purples all the way to firetruck red, to their stocky build and bad attitude, it is no wonder these new sport fish are captivating.

Tiger Trout are a hybrid between a female brown trout and a male brook trout. While being a hybrid fish in itself is unique, what makes tiger trout even more unusual is that they are a cross between a trout (brown trout), and a char (brook trout) with dissimilar chromosomal numbers.

Male Tiger Trout from Colorado. Caught fly fishing

Tiger trout are entirely sterile and therefore dedicate all their energy into feeding. If the food source is abundant, they will often grow to sizes of 18-20 inches in just a few years.

While tiger trout are growing, some take on more qualities of one of their parents. At times some resembling the stockiness and depth of a brook trout, and other times putting on a slender length first as seen in brown trout and later girth as tiger trout reach trophy sizes.

Many states have adopted this vicious hybrid as a means to control unwanted baitfish populations and provide sport fishing to anglers. There are various research studies conducted that examine the piscivorous (fish eating) nature of tiger trout that have found tiger trout do well at controlling baitfish populations in lieu of other more traditional trout species.

Though an extremely small number of tiger trout can occur naturally in the wild in spawning habits that suit both brown and brook trout, the vast majority are stocked as fingerlings by states. These naturally occurring habitats are few and far between and are usually found around the Great Lakes or the East Coast of the United States.

Where to Catch Tiger Trout

Tiger trout can be found in an increasing number of states across the United States as well as Canada.

States that stock tiger trout range from Pennsylvania, to Colorado & Idaho all the way to Washington, and yes even rivers in Georgia. However, you are not likely to find tigers in many warm, low-elevation areas, as tiger trout require cooler water with higher dissolved oxygen levels to survive just as many trout and char species. Although tiger trout typically can do alright at slightly lower elevations than expected as they take after their brown trout parent.

Nebraska Tiger Trout from Two Rivers Recreation Area

However, most places you find tiger trout have cooler running water, are at least mid-elevation, or are further north. Some states have adopted a small stocking program, however, in unusual places. Nebraska is an example of one of these states that stock tiger trout.

This Tiger Trout may be small but still a unique catch for Nebraska!

How to Catch Tiger Trout

One word: aggressive.

Mean, ill-tempered, and unhappy. That may be four descriptors instead of just one but I think you get the picture. Do not forget this when casting the lures and flies I am about to suggest to them. If tiger trout aren’t actively feeding, chances are you can persuade them just by making them a little angry.

Lure Selection: In-line spinners, Kastmasters

Tiger trout are well-known for the aggression and their aptness to strike. Some of the best lures for tiger trout that I have found are quick reaction baits that play to their aggressive hybrid nature.

Tiger trout caught by girl fishing in a Hobie Kayak

If I am not using a fly, chances I am going for the reaction strike. In-line spinners and Kastmasters have been used by anglers for decades and have proven themselves as trout catchers, however, some of my favorite specifically for tiger trout would be white-red Roostertails & Chrome Neon Blue Kastmasters.

Typically sizes under 3/8 ths oz. are best. Sizing up or down can help on particular days. However, when working a lure fast for the reaction strike, size isn’t as vital as how you work your rod tip. The best lures and flies for tiger trout are nothing if not worked properly. Speeding up your rod tip with a quick twitch can often entice a strike as well as varying your reel speed.

Often times tiger trout nip out of pure aggression rather than a need to feed. A rod with an extra-fast and sensitive tip has proven to be vital for detecting any nip or fast strike and a medium to medium light rod is best for tiger trout.

Fly Selection: Zonker Minnow, Sparkle Dun, Midge Patterns

Tiger trout, while having a tendency to prey upon smaller fish, (which is where conventional tackle and streamers come into play) also do a large portion of their feeding on flies and bug life in the water.

One of my more reliable streamers for tiger trout has been a Zonker Minnow in a white, natural pattern fished on intermediate or sinking line depending on the time of year. The Zonker Minnow does a great job at imitating a baitfish and playing into a tiger trout’s piscivorous nature. Also, it helps to know the kind of baitfish in a body of water as this helps you tailor your color selection and fool a tiger.

Knowing the hatches on any given water is the most vital component of fly fishing. A Sparkle Dun is a go-to during the mayfly hatches and any midge pattern typically proves too much to resist for the tiger trout out west. Midges are is most water sources all year round and are a pretty safe place to start. However, knowing specifically what hatch is occurring always gives you a leg up on any trout, with tiger trout being no different. Adjust your fly selection to what you see in the water but remember the component of their aggressive nature while stripping in your fly.

Girl holds bright red orange tiger trout male from Colorado
Using a Twilight midge or Jujube midge patterns in cold water works well in Colorado.

Any 5/6 wt fly rod works great for tiger trout, however, there are locations on bigger waters where a 7 wt is better not just for throwing streamers, but too to safely land and handle a large tiger trout. Tiger trout are often delicate and a drawn-out fight on a light rod is not ideal for any fishes’ survival.

Tiger Trout are mysterious, alluring and downright mystical when you get right down to it. Their beauty, aggression and cunning nature make them an incredible sportfish and while I have barely scratched the surface on these fascinating hybrids, I hope you have a start to begin your hunt for tiger trout.

Stay tuned for future articles that will dive in-depth on tiger trout biology and how that relates to finding the best lakes, structures that tiger trout relate to, ideal water temperature, unique behaviors and more!

Tightlines for tiger trout everyone!

About The Author

Die-hard muskie & trout angler with a passion. Kayak fishing, Hybrid chasing, Sunrise ↠ Sunset, http://nebraskamuskiegirl.com

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