May 27, 2020
Jim Harris Managing Editor Arkansas Wildlife Magazine
MAMMOTH SPRING – Tiger trout, a hybrid of brown trout and brook trout often stocked in waters in the western and northwestern United States, will be stocked for the first time in Arkansas within the next couple of weeks, according to Christy Graham, trout program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
The stocking of 2,500 tiger trout is experimental, with no promises of additional stockings in future years. But Graham is encouraged by the hybrid’s possibilities in Arkansas waters. The fish will be stocked in the Bull Shoals Catch-and-Release area below Bull Shoals Dam. They were acquired via trade as fingerlings from a hatchery in Wyoming in April 2019 (the AGFC sent Wyoming channel catfish and crappie) and grown at the Jim Hinkle/Spring River State Fish Hatchery to a length of 10-12 inches.
“One of the things we always hear is people wanting to have different, unique opportunities for trout fishing in the state,” Graham said. “So, introducing this new species is just one way for us to add to that diversity of their experience.”
Though the AGFC has never stocked tiger trout, Graham said trout biologists “have seen wild tiger trout hatched on the Little Red River, where both brown and brook trout have reproduced in the wild.
“Tiger trout have characteristics of both of parent species,” Graham said. “They have kind of the golden-brown color of a brown trout but they’ll have … swirls and patterns like a brook trout. Many also will have fins that will have that black-and-white leading edge like a brook trout has. It’s a really neat-looking fish.”
The goal of the experimental stocking is to determine how well the tiger trout can survive and grow in Arkansas trout waters. With anglers having to release the fish after catching them, the AGFC biologists can survey how well the hybrid holds up below Bull Shoals Dam and whether it is something the agency wants to pursue in the future.
“There are currently not any (state) regulations in place to protect these fish, so we wanted to make sure to put them in an area where they have to be released if they are caught,” she said. “We also are proposing to make them catch-and-release only, regardless of where they are caught. So, if that passes (the Commission), then starting Jan. 1 all tiger trout, no matter where they are caught in the Bull Shoals or Norfork tailwaters, would have to be released. That will give us time to evaluate how successful the stocking was without having concerns about excessive harvest of those fish.”
In addition to the tiger trout, the AGFC will stock about 5,800 brook trout raised at the Greers Ferry National Fish Hatchery in the Bull Shoals tailwater, this year’s allotment for that area. Brook trout are also stocked in the Norfork Dam tailwater and below Greers Ferry Dam in the Little Red. As for the Bull Shoals tailwater stocking, Graham said, “They’ll be stocked at similar sizes (9-10 inches). We’ll be able to study how well they both do in terms of survival and growth.”
Though tiger trout sometimes occur in the wild, as evidenced by the hybrids discovered in the Little Red River, these tiger trout are a triploid fish, meaning that the hybrids don’t have the ability to spawn on their own. So, future stockings, if they happen, will require working with producers elsewhere for the purchase of eggs or fingerlings to raise. “By being triploid, these fish will not put energy toward reproduction, instead they can put most of their energy toward growth,” Graham said.
Anglers should enjoy landing a tiger trout. In addition to their interesting looks, they tend to put up a tussle.
“The tiger trout that have been stocked in other places have a good reputation for putting up a fight like a brown trout,” Graham said. “They’ve got the characteristics, and they’ve exhibited the ability to grow better than what we see with brook trout here in Arkansas. So, it’s one of the reasons we wanted to try it.”