Missouri Trout Hunter

Blog for sharing thoughts, beliefs and opinions on issues affecting the world of trout fishing in the Ozarks.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Muscle-bound Trout Hits 70 Homeruns!

There have been a number of studies over the last several years investigating the endurance of trout, how it effects their feeding behaviors, spawning behaviors, migration, etc. In essence, They take a trout and put him into a tube with screen at both ends. That tube is placed in a constant current, and they measure the time until the fish allows the current to push him against the back screen. In past studies, they've altered the speed of the current, the water temperature, the oxygen content, the amount of daylight the fish receive, and also what the fish are fed. Our very own University of Missouri has taken things one step farther.

Perhaps the idea was "spawned" (sorry) from the controversy surrounding Mark McGwire a few years back -- St. Louis is only a couple hours away, after all. Regardless of the inspiration, MU professors Eric Berg (Animal Science) and Rob Hayward (Fisheries) came up with the idea of feeding rainbow trout a hatchery diet that is entirely normal except that it's been suped up a bit with a 5% blend of Creatine. What?! That's right. The very same substance that professional athletes have used for years to speed recovery from injury and increase muscle mass. The same chemical that helped Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs in 1998. And the results have been phenomenal.

First, let's be clear. Creatine is not a steroid. It is an amino acid, one of the building blocks of protein. When you introduce extra creatine into an animal, it simply elevates the body's ability to use that building block to build muscle mass. Thus far, there are no indications that it is dangerous in any way. In fact, you can go down to your local vitamin store and buy a jug of it today. Be this as it may, it has not yet been approved for use in feeding hatchery fish that are to be consumed by humans. So any excitement you may be feeling right now is certainly premature. However, the future of trout fishing or even sport fishing in general, may look very different in the future.

After more than a year of studies, the researchers discovered that a diet supplemented with 5% creatine increased a trout's ability to swim in a current by about 500%. Imagine the ramifications of this discovery. Yes, it means that these trout will be stronger and fight harder, but how else would it effect the pursuit of the fish? Brown trout have greater endurance than rainbow trout, and there are many theories that reference this fact when trying to explain why mature browns feed differently, sit in different lies, migrate differently, and feed more nocturnally than rainbows.

Consider this, if you're a rainbow trout forced to swim in a current, you'll eventually get tired, and you'll have to use your energy efficiently in the pursuit of food. You probably chase down a minnow occasionally, but you generally must resign yourself to finding a lie sheltered somewhat from the current but near a quality feeding lane. There, you can conserve your energy while allowing the current to bring you little bits of food on nature's cafeteria line. Mature brown trout feed like this occasionally, but they are more likely to be pursuit feeders and are also more likely to have a stomach full of minnows, sculpins and crayfish. Why? Better endurance. They can afford to expend the energy needed to capture bigger prey. This also makes them more difficult to catch -- wild animals don't generally eat unless they're hungry.

So, would a muscle-bound rainbow become more like a brown? Would nymph and dry fly fishing end, replaced almost entirely by streamers, spinners and crankbaits? And how long would the effects of creatine last after stocking? Would stocked fish that avoid being caught for a few months revert back to normal behavior patterns, or would they starve to death by using up their energy reserves in pursuit of bait fish? Hmmmm. Sounds like more research is needed.

Click on the comments link below to, uh...you know... leave a comment!


Anonymous Michael Black said...

Interesting points. If I had to guess, I don't think the suplements would alter their feeding patterns within the state parks. I say this because I rarely see trout in those places you might expect wild trout to be. What I'm used to seing is, several trout stacked on top of each other in the various pools. Now, some might take advantage of certain structures here and there but most are hanging out no where near any type of structure or various currents. Those are just my observations from Roaring River and Bennett Springs.

It could potentially alter those trout released in less managed streams where stocked trout can behave more like their wild cousins.

Just my humble opinion. Interesting topic none the less.

Go Red Birds!!!

12:21 PM  

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