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"Fryed" Fish

by Ray Schmidt
04/18/09 2009 Schmidt Outfitters

No, fryed isn't misspelled in this instance. It's a pun! A fry is a stage of a young fish's life. The importance of this annual event cannot be overstated both for the health and welfare of fish, but also the opportunity it presents to anglers in the spring.

All fish come from an egg, but hatch differently than birds. In the case of birds, the egg cracks open and the chick jumps out. Fish develop from the egg, and the egg sac stays with the fish and provides protein for development. This stage is called sac fry. Once the egg is absorbed, the fish is simply called a fry.

In our region, fish from the Great Lakes migrate into the rivers to spawn. This spawning process provides millions of eggs for fish to feed on. Fish deposit their eggs in the gravel during the spawn where the eggs incubate for a period of time before they emerge. The fish that emerge are then called sac fry!

Great Lakes salmon spawn during the fall months and their eggs incubate during the winter. Their young begin to emerge in March and early April. Great Lakes steelhead spawn in the spring. Generally their eggs incubate around 60 days before they emerge. The steelhead young emergence is from late April through June providing almost a continual supply of sac fry during this time. The window for fishing sac fry patterns is from late March through June.

These young fish move up in the water column and move to shore. They move into the slowest, shallowest water they can find. This water warms more quickly than the rest of the river and allows these young fish to develop in large numbers. You will see hundreds of these fish very close to the bank of our rivers. Remember there are hundreds of thousands of these young fish.

We have two methods for fishing the Sac Fry pattern. First, we dead drift the fly either with an indicator rig or a chuck-and-duck rig. This is the best method for using the fly for steelhead. The second method is for fishing trout. We simply use a weight-forward floating line and cast the fly as tightly to the river bank as possible. Swing the fly with an occasional twitch. I like to watch for big browns feeding in the shallows, then throw this fly at them.



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