The Elusive Amish Trout

I am always amazed the interest generated by the name Amish Trout. I remember arriving at one of the first trade shows to a group of volunteers waiting for "the Amish Trout boys. When we walked in, there was a sense of disappointment in the crowd. Finally, some one bellowed "you guys aren't Amish!" 

"No," I said, "but the trout are!"

Several people have inquired about the Amish Trout, and I am for once, and all explain the origin of the name and the fish. First of all, no one associated with the Amish Trout is Amish. I'm sure Beachy has some Amish blood, and most of us speak just enough Dutch to get by. However, we are not amish. We are fortunate to have good relationships with Amish landowners and can fish a lot of private lands. The term "Amish Trout" gained popularity with improvements to the Little Elkhart River over the past fifteen years. Folks from Chicago, South Bend, and other areas would say "I want to come down and fish those Amish waters" and soon that evolved into "come down and fish for those Amish Trout."

The Amish Trout  

The Amish Trout  

Back then, the trout had a little different look. They didn't have buttery and didn't have has many spots as the trout many of us were used to catching in Michigan and elsewhere and thus became known as Amish Trout. Over the years, our trout have become brighter, with tighter spot patterns and have grown to a much larger size on average than we had become accustomed to. I always believed that the combination of a much better environment and LECTU's stocking efforts were the causes of the trout's "improved" appearance. Truthfully, I didn't give it much thought.

That is until last week when I hooked what I thought was a holdover bow out of a deep and fast run. The fish was barely 10 inches and outfought the other larger fish I had hooked and released. When I brought the fish to hand, I was surprised to see the silvery fish was a brown trout! A classic dark Amish Trout. I caught over a dozen fish that night, all within 10 meters of each other. So what made this fish different? 

Many of you may be aware that the U.S. Fish Commission released 4900 brown trout fry into the Baldwin River, a tributary of the Pere Marquette River in Michigan, only a few hours north of us. This was the first release of brown trout into U.S. waters. Between 1884 and 1890, brown trout were introduced into suitable habitats throughout the U.S.[8] By 1900, 38 states and two territories had received stocks of brown trout. Their adaptability resulted in most of these introductions establishing wild, self-sustaining populations. But before that, in 1883 eggs were collected from Baron Lucius von Behr, president of the German Fishing Society, and sent to hatcheries in Long Island,  Caledonia, New York and Northville, Michigan. The additional shipments came in the following years from Germany (know as the German or Von Behr trout) and Loch Leven, Scotland.

Lil E Loch Leven Brown

Lil E Loch Leven Brown

While biologically, the fish are the same, and both are considered Salmo Truttra family, they are visibly different. Loch Leven trout are often called "The Perfect Trout," distinguished by larger fins, a more golden slimmer body, and heavy black spotting, but lacking red spots. The German strain features a lighter silvery golden cast with some red spotting and fewer dark spots. To confuse matters more, the two have been crossbred here in North America, producing the more well-known brassy brown cast fading to creamy white on the fish's belly, with medium-sized spots surrounded by lighter halos and some red dots that sometimes referred to as American Trout.

We have caught all the different strains of brown trout in our local waters, though less and less of the Von Behr variety. 

The Amish Trout is actually German... But so are our Amish, so I guess it all works out in the end!