Chris recently sent us this note on Facebook:
I began to reply via Facebook and quickly realized how ridiculous it would be to type this on my smartphone. I also thought it’s a topic interesting enough to post and share here on our blog.
So let me begin with this statement; I’m in no way a fisheries biologist and my opinions are only based on what I think is most logical, but not ruling out the possibility for something unusual. My opinion has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience.
The oddly colored and sparsely spotted trout in question came from a section of river that lie in Georgia’s largest Wilderness Area, the Cohutta Wilderness. I totally agree with the comments Chris left on our Flickr page; they almost look like a “cutbow”, without of course the one distinguishing feature that gave the cutthroat species its name. And most likely it’s not likely they have any relation to the cutthroat species since I can find no record on the ole’ Google machine of any hatcheries in the southeast raising cutthroat. I've caught more than one of these unusual looking rainbows on this wild section of river, so I know it's not a fluke or “one off”. I also know that I've only caught them in a certain section of the river.
Here’s some thoughts to consider: If you’ve spent enough time in the forest of the Cohutta Wilderness, you quickly realize it’s a place like no other. I don’t just say that because of its size alone. I say that because it’s like its own little planet. From about 1999 until 2002, I volunteered for the Forestry Service in Chatsworth, GA doing trail maintenance and trail improvements inside the Wilderness Area. After a friend introduced me to the area, I quickly became fascinated. The rivers are fairly wide to be spring fed from the mountains in which they run through (large enough we call them rivers and not creeks). The water is crystal clear and because of the areas geology, the river is loaded with giant boulders and unusual barren viens of white quartz that traverse the river bottom reminiscent of something from "Middle Earth". When you explore out there, you start to find things you’ve never seen before, or in unusual abundance. I’ve seen unusually large hatches of flying insects (Mays and Caddis) as well as some large and/or unusual bugs I haven’t found in the same numbers anywhere else in the North Georgia Mountains (Beetles, Millipedes and Dobsonflies). In a way, the Cohutta Wilderness area lives up to my expectations of what a Wilderness area should be, mysterious and filled with possibility. So mysterious that the area is host to cryptozoology stories; including that of monster Brown Trout over 20 inches and of course let’s not forget Bigfoot (as well as a few unexplained creepy and paranormal experiences of my own while camping) yet there are no hard evidence of either.
All that being said, the trout along this section of river probably have a very unique diet that may not be common or as prevalent elsewhere in the state. That diet may have allowed these fish to grow in a completely natural state in this very unique area, creating these unusual looking rainbows. That would be my best logical guess. However, if waterfowl can transport fertilized fish eggs to remote ponds on their feathers and webbed feet, I suppose Bigfoot may have carried in cutthroat eggs from out West between his hairy toes. Like I said when i started this post; logical, but not ruling out the possibility for something unusual.
Now after all this discussion and reminiscing on past trips, I’ve got the itch to get out there and torture my leg muscles. Chris, keep us posted if your trout research reveals any other answers or interesting facts.