Fishing for Ferox Trout in Scotland’s Lochs

Scotland is blessed with wild salmon and freshwater fisheries resources of world renown. Rivers such as the Tweed, Tay, Dee and Spey are synonymous with both salmon fishing and Scotland and Loch Leven is world famous for its unique brown trout population.

Some of our large, deep lochs, such as Loch Awe, are home to the famous 'ferox' trout, attracting specimen anglers from far and wide.

On Loch Awe the best fly fishing for wild brown trout is to be had during the first few months of the season before fish move into deeper water and at the back end of the season when the fish move back into the shallower water.

Traditional drift fishing over shallower water during these times can produce some very nice catches of hard fighting brown trout averaging 3/4lb with fish of 1-2lb not uncommon with the odd 5lb+ fish being caught.

Trolling for Ferox trout is a very successful and popular fishing method used on Loch Awe and the other Scottish Lochs. Ferox trout are large predatory Brown trout which spend most of their time in the depths feeding on the loch's abundant population of Arctic char and Roach.

Again best times for this type of fishing is early and late season though large double figure fish are caught throughout the season.

It is widely believed that Loch Awe is easily capable of producing more 30lb+ fish.

Ferox trout (Salmo ferox) is a variety of trout found in oligotrophic lakes of Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales.

Ferox trout is a traditional name for large, piscivorous trout which in Scotland feed largely on Arctic char. It has been argued to be a distinct species, being reproductively isolated from "normal" brown trout (Salmo trutta) of the same lakes, particularly in Ireland. However it is uncertain whether the ferox of different lakes all are of a single origin. This fish grows to a length of 80 centimetres (31 in)

Scottish authorities currently do not regard Scottish ferox to be taxonomically distinct from Salmo trutta

Although in the past, it was referred to as a separate species, Salmo ferox, this is no longer the case. The Ferox life history is one of a number of life strategies adopted by one species, the brown trout, Salmo trutta. Research into the genetics of Ferox trout, has shown them to be genetically distinct from other trout in some lochs (for example Lough Melvin, Ireland), but recent unpublished research from a variety of Scottish Lochs has shown that this is not the case in all populations. Data from Loch Rannoch samples, for example, have shown that a wide genetic variability exists within its Ferox population.

Ferox trout display a wide variety of shape, colouration and spot patterns. The condition of individual fish is also very variable and depends on factors such as age; season, whether it had spawned during the previous winter and possible parasite infestation.

Life History - After subsisting on invertebrates, some brown trout switch to a diet based mainly on fish. Brown trout that switch to piscivory find that the switch not only boosts their growth, but also adds to their longevity. The current UK rod caught record stands at 31lb 12oz (14.4 kg).

The oldest recorded ferox trout in the UK is a fish of 23 years of age. Documented evidence of growth potential has been obtained from recent research carried out in Loch Rannoch where increases of over 300 per cent bodyweight have been recorded.

Diet and Behaviour - Ferox trout have an unjustified reputation as cannibals, in part due to the misuse of the word cannibal to describe any trout that eats fish. Ferox have a marked preference for Arctic char. True cannibalism is probably less common than might be supposed - but in the absence of other prey fish, ferox will certainly prey on their own kind. Growth potential is influenced by the size spectrum of available prey.

Ferox trout are present in most if not all large Scottish lochs. They are highly prized by anglers and in recent years, angling pressure upon them has steadily increased. Ferox are becoming rare and are extremely difficult to catch. Catching one of these fish can often be a “fish of a lifetime”. Trolling for ferox trout will test your skill, endurance and patience. You could fish for hours, days, weeks or months without catching a ferox trout. On other occasions you might catch three or four in one day. The most important thing is that we protect this fish and return any ferox that we catch back into the loch. You never know the next time it is caught it could be a lot bigger.

I would highly recommend anyone who catches a ferox to release it safely so that we can continue the existence of this fascinating fish within the great Scottish Lochs.

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