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Trout Species of Japan

Fly Fishing Nikko Japan

Fly Fishing Japan

Anglers visiting Japan can find several species of salmonids (trout, char, salmon, and taimen). With each species comes a different adventure and challenge for anglers. From the high elevation mountain streams of Japans interior, in cities such as Nagano and Nikko, to the coastal estuaries of Japan's Northern island of Hokkaido, trout water comes in all shapes and sizes. Whether incorporating the  traditional tenkara techniques founded in the area, or throwing large streamers for the "monsters" that lurk in the larger rivers, anglers can find success in whichever method suits their skill set best. 

Fly Fishing Honshu

For those who have visited the streams of Southern Appalachia, the streams on Japan's main island of Honshu should seem like familiar territory. While the bedrock of the streams there are more volcanic in nature, the dense vegetation and overhanging rhododendrons should feel right at home. Add to this, the cascading plunge pools, and braided currents that hide skittish trout and char just beneath and the similarities seem uncanny. Hatches of smaller stoneflies, mayflies, and caddis occur throughout the year with the late spring bringing the most abundant hatches. The similarities don't end at the the geology and vegetation though. The two species present in these streams closely resemble the rainbow trout and brook trout that are the most common throughout Southern Appalachian streams.

Fly Fishing Hokkaido

While the trout fishing of Honshu resembles the small trout streams of Appalachia, a similar parallel can be made between Japan's Northern island of Hokkaido and the rivers of Alaska. Pink Salmon, Chum salmon, and Dolly Varden can all be found in the coastal rivers throughout the island. While Honshu is more rugged with elevation changes, Hokkaido is much more flat. Salmon runs here begin in late spring and run through the fall months. Local fish in the rivers take advantage of the annual visitors to feed up on roe and expiring flesh much like Alaska's waters.

Cherry Trout

Cherry Trout of Japan

Cherry Trout of Japan

The Cherry Trout, also referred to locally as Yamame, can be considered a trout or salmon. Cherry Salmon, also called Masou, are found in the coastal water of Northern Japan northward into Russia. The Cherry Trout however, does not make its way to the salt water bays and estuaries to pack on the pounds before returning to spawn. The Yamame, Oncorhynchus masou, has a close parallel to the rainbow trout while the masou is it's steelhead counterpart. Cherry Trout are easily recognizable by their distinguished parr marks which stay with them throughout their lives in the small trout streams of Japan. Their slender bodies have a glassy sheen that is more noticeable than their salmonid cousins.

Cherry Salmon of Japan

Cherry Salmon of Northern Japan

White Spotted Char

Salvelinus leucomaenis, or White Spotted Char, can be found as far south as central Japan up to the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia. Much like the Cherry Salmon, this char moves to saltwater bays for better feeding opportunities in its more northerly waters. These larger sea-going char are referred to as Kundzha in the Russian Far East. In central Japan, they are called Iwana. In the high mountain streams around Nagano and Nikko, they behave much similar to the brook trout of North America. Occupying only the smallest and most pristine waters of the area they are incredibly spooky and the target of the most savvy anglers. 

White Spotted Char of Japan

White Spotted Char of Japan

Sakhalin Taimen

The Sakhalin Taimen is the true trophy for anglers visiting Japan. It's local name "Ito" means Monster and for good reason. These fish regularly grow to 36" on a heavy diet of trout and whatever else it can get its mouth around during their stays in the shallow bays and inlets of coastal Hokkaido and the Sakhalin Sea. Besides the coastal rivers of Hokkaido, the Sakhalin Taimen can also be found in the inland reservoir of Hokkaido, Shumarinai Lake. Once listed as an endangered species, recent effort have allowed populations of the Ito to improve. Be sure to bring some heavy gear and stout hooks if you wish to try you luck for this fish.

Sakhalin Taimen of Japan

Sakhalin Taimen

Oshorokoma Char

Oshorokoma Trout

Salvelinus curilus of Hokkaido, Japan

Known locally as the Oshorokoma, Salvelinus malma curilus is a subspecies of Southern Dolly Varden Char that lives its entire life in a handful of small freshwater streams of Hokkaido. Quite a unique target and rare catch for visitors. These fish may be small but have vibrant colors year round.  Small flies and a stealthy approach are critical for coaxing one of these beautiful char to the net. 

Fly Fishing Japan

Fly Fishing Nagano Japan

Next to the Cherry Trout, White Spotted Char, Sakhalin Taimen, and Southern Dolly Varden, anglers can find wild chum salmon, pink salmon, and rainbow trout populations. Rainbow trout are also stocked in many tailwater fisheries across the country. Brown trout and brook trout have also been stocked in select streams. Lake trout were once stocked in several reserviors on Honshu, though their current presence is in question. 

Learn more about the trout species of the planet in our articles on Trout Species of the World, Trout Fishing Southern EuropeTrout Fishing IrelandTrout Fishing MoroccoTrout Fishing Turkey, and Trout of North America. Our detailed articles on What Do Trout EatFly Fishing a Hatch, and Fly Fishing Streamers will give you a great idea on how to target each of these species.

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