|In female trout, eggs are held within a thin membrane in the body cavity. Trout
eggs range from pale yellow to orange in coloration. The size of the eggs depends upon the stage of development and
the size of the female (in general, larger trout produce larger eggs). Nonetheless, when a female trout is ready to
spawn, the eggs will fill much of the free space in the body cavity.
In Pennsylvania, brook and
brown trout are fall spawners. Brook trout generally spawn between September and November and brown trout spawn a
little later, usually between October and December. By nature, rainbow trout are spring spawners. However, by process
of selection in the hatchery system, this species has been selected to spawn during the late summer and early fall
(August - September). Basically, from the time that the eggs hatch, it takes about 16-18 months to produce trout of
catchable size (averaging 9-11 inches in length) for stocking. Therefore, this process has allowed us to have relatively
uniform size catchable size hatchery trout of all three species during a time period when they are in the most demand,
or during the spring.
You shouldn't be too upset about harvesting the rainbow trout. This fish was most likely an older hatchery trout
that had begun to develop eggs for the upcoming season or possibly had some old eggs remaining from a previous spawn
(eggs that are not expelled are absorbed internally by the fish). It is highly unlikely that this hatchery fish would
have successfully spawned with another rainbow trout in the wild in Pennsylvania waters. Although we have a wealth
of reproducing wild brook and brown trout populations in the Commonwealth, only about a dozen streams support reproducing
wild rainbow trout fisheries.
The methods to distinguish between male and female trout are difficult to determine to the untrained eye. Again,
the older the trout is and the closer to spawning season, the easier it is to determine between the sexes. In general,
mature male trout will develop a kype (or a hooked snout on their lower jaw). Male trout also tend to be more laterally
compressed than female trout and during the spawning period may be brighter in coloration. Conversely, female trout
tend to have a more rounded snout and body conformation. Of course the positive way to determine this would be as
you did, to sacrifice the fish and examine for the presence of eggs or sperm.