Do Brown Trout Die After Spawning: Spawning Habits Explained 

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Close up image of brown trout held by man's hand.

Brown trout do not die after they spawn. While it can take several weeks for them to recover and return to normal behaviors, they don’t die after spawning. As soon as they reach three or four years old, they’ll spawn for several years until their bodies prevent them from participating.

The annual brown trout spawn is a sight to behold. Redds spread across rivers and streams guarded by protective brown trout give anglers a glimpse into all that has to occur for us to fish healthy brown trout populations each year. The spawn is exhausting for brown trout, but they generally survive it unscathed. 

Post-Spawn Brown Trout 

The spawning process lasts a few months between the pre-spawn, spawn, and post-spawn. During this time, mature trout lose weight and spend most of their time on the verge of exhaustion. Males and females keep busy digging spawning grounds, laying eggs, protecting eggs, and waiting for them to hatch.

Once the process is over, brown trout find slack water and spend time feeding. They’ll lay low and feed until they gain enough strength to continue their normal habits. 

After their fourth or fifth year of spawning, brown trout usually quit doing it every year. Their bodies can only handle the abuse that comes with the spawn for so long. It doesn’t kill them, but it impacts their lifestyle longer and longer each time they do it. 

Brown Trout Spawning Process

The spawning process is fascinating. Many factors must align for it to occur properly and without mishaps. No spawning season is perfect, but trout have perfected it over thousands of years. 

Time of Year 

In the United States, the brown trout spawn occurs in the fall. At some point between September and December, brown trout spawn. It’s entirely dependent on water conditions, so some years it happens earlier or later than others.

Pay close attention to the water and speak with local experts to find exactly when brown trout are spawning in your area.

Danny fly fishing in the river.
Fly Fishing in Sedona

Water Conditions

Water conditions must be perfect for the brown trout to spawn without many casualties. Once brown trout are comfortable with the water conditions, they’ll get the spawn going. 


Water temperatures need around 45-55 degrees for the brown trout spawn. Colder water temperatures occur as air temperatures drop. Cold water keeps brown trout’s energy high and helps incubate the eggs. 

Many trout swim into nearby tributaries to find more consistent water temperatures. Any sort of rapid temperature change is dangerous. 


Brown trout don’t spawn in deep water. Usually, you’ll find redds in 2-5 feet of water. Shallower water has less current to sweep eggs downstream. Protecting eggs in shallow water is far less exhausting than trying to protect eggs in deep water with fast currents. 


Brown trout eggs need a consistent flow to get enough oxygen. Trout eggs take a few weeks to hatch, so the more consistent the flow, the healthier the eggs. Most trout prefer flows around 100 CFS for their ideal spawning flows. 

River Bottom

Trout spawn in areas with gravel bottoms. Males dig redds (some up to bathtub-sized holes) at the bottom of the water for the females to lay their eggs. Gravel bottoms keep these holes in place, and the gravel is easier to dig into. 

If you’re fishing during the spawn, stay away from redds. They’re extremely sensitive; stepping into them can kill hundreds of brown trout eggs. 


Brown trout often spawn in the same place year after year. They’ll spawn in rivers and streams to get enough oxygen over their eggs to help them grow. They’ll swim into moving water to complete the spawn, even if they spend most of their time in a lake or pond.

Danny's hand holding brown trout fish.
Custer State Park brown trout

Male and Female

During the spawn, males fertilize and protect their eggs. 

The females are responsible for digging the nest, laying the eggs, and protecting them. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

How Many Times Can Brown Trout Spawn?

Brown trout spawn a few times in their lifetime. Once they reach maturity at three or four years old, they’ll spawn for the next four or five years. 

Can You Catch Trout When They Are Spawning?

Yes, you can catch trout when they’re spawning. However, it’s best to stay away from spawning brown trout. You want them to complete the spawning process in peace. It’s already exhausting enough for them. When you add in a fight, they’ll burn even more precious energy. 

Do Brown Trout Eat When They Are Spawning?

Yes, brown trout eat during the spawn. While they limit the amount they feed since they’re more focused on protecting the eggs, they eat easy meals close to their redds. 


Brown trout are hearty fish. They can withstand the grueling spawning process over multiple years. The months of preparing, laying, fertilizing, and protecting the eggs take a toll on their bodies, but they fully recover.

Remember, when you find spawning brown trout, avoid them and let them complete the process. Once the spawn finishes, they’re fair game to target.

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