Catalan Pyrenees: since the end of October and throughout the winter, fario trout spawn in the Carlit lakes

This is the perfect time to go and see the spawning grounds of brown trout “Carança strain” and spring salmon on the lakes of Carlit, Llat, Long, Soubirans, Trebens and Castella, between 2,150 and 2,330 m above sea level.

From the end of October and during the winter, a natural phenomenon agitates the streams feeding the lakes of the Catalan Pyrenees, in Cerdagne and Capcoir. Trout are clearly visible in these small streams and strange thing, a migration that goes up.

At this time of year, the fishermen have already stored their gear, the closing weekend has already taken place. The weather is abnormally mild and aficionados would be welcome to tease a few extra fario to garnish their “canastrella”!

But here we are, we are not kidding with this very important period, the spawning of the brown trout but also of the salmon (or brook trout), in other words, the reproduction period. In the tributaries, small streams that connect the lakes to each other, where the majority of the spawning grounds are located, the spectacle is astonishing. Marc Ribot, president of the APPMA Font-Romeu Carlit and vice-president of the Fédération de Pêche 66, invited us to attend.

Brown trout “Carança strain”, here a female and a male going up a tributary.

Trout swim up streams

After more than an hour’s walk starting from the Bouillouses lake, head for the upper lakes with high fishing interest. Marc knows every tree, grove, rock, in this corner of paradise in the department: “You know, you don’t have to go far, we have exceptional landscapes, breathtaking panoramas!”

We head towards the tributary of the Llat where the Tramontane ripples the surface of the water. At first glance, difficult to distinguish any fish. But after a few seconds, we see a small group of trout on the sides adorned with black dots and red dots going up the river.

Discretion is essential, this salmonid is very sensitive, too intrusive a human presence and it will hide under rocks or banks. “It is important to come and see the reproduction of these wild trout, to see if everything is going well, if something can disturb them or even to see that there is enough water on the spawning grounds so that they can do their job. !”

The Law of Numbers

The spawning grounds, medium-grained areas where the trout go to nest are easily spotted, “especially since the water is low. The females build the nest with tail strokes and lay their eggs there. The males lay on it, the milt, everything is covered. The spawning grounds are those clear areas that we spot at the bottom of the streams” shows Marc Ribot, “in a few weeks, the eggs will hatch and will be born small wild fish.”

The number of eggs will depend on the size of the females. On mountain lakes, fish are sexually mature from 3 years. “The trout then measure 23 to 25 centimeters but their first phase of production is weak. They have few eggs at this time. Of course, those which measure 40-45 centimeters are much more productive.”

Very few wild-born fish have a chance of reaching adulthood” but it’s the law of numbers that counts. As thousands of eggs are laid, the number that matures is enough .” If the brown trout “Carança strain” and the brook salmon are breeding at this very moment, the emblematic rainbow trout “Bouillouses strain” are breeding much earlier, in spring from the end of May to mid-July.

The real impact of global warming

The visit of the tributaries of the upper lakes of Carlit showed a certain lack of water. The fish group together but cannot go far enough up the rivers.

“For a few years, it has been a recurring problem and one that has tended to get worse. Indeed, the lack of water is felt in the summer period but also in the autumn period. About ten years ago back, we had lots of rain. The surface areas of the spawning grounds were much larger. It is obvious that things are changing and evolving, but maybe not in a good way!”

A priority, to ensure the sustainability of these environments, is to be very attentive to the regulations, not only in terms of fishing but also attendance. “The site is overcrowded during the summer periods with behaviors that are not necessarily adapted to this sensitive and fragile environment. “regrets Marc Ribot.

Leave this superb site to young people and future generations in the best possible condition.

The Fédération de Pêche 66 and the local fishing associations are carrying out studies to observe the evolution of the environment. “Above all, we work with very professional fish farmers who manage to supply fish eggs from Carança-strain fario trout, allowing us to supply these high-altitude lakes with real local fish.”

Rainbow trout “Strain Bouillouses” will reinforce the population of these lakes. The local APPMAs feel very concerned by these new problems encountered and help each other “to find solutions in the hope of leaving this superb site to young people and future generations in the best possible condition.”


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