Brook Trout fish identification, its habitats, characteristics, fishing methods.
Brook trout are the most beautiful freshwater fish that survive in only the coldest and cleanest water. Brook trout serve as indicators of the health of the watersheds they inhabit. Strong wild brook trout populations demonstrate that stream or river ecosystem is healthy and that water quality is excellent. A decline in brook trout populations can serve as an early warning that the health of an entire aquatic system is at risk. They are the only trout native to the eastern United States.
They are also located in the Appalachians Mountains southeast of the Great Lakes–Saint Lawrence system to the northern Georgia, Canada, and the upper Mississippi River drainage as far west as eastern Iowa. Brook trout have also been introduced to higher elevations in the western United States.
The Brook trout, Salvelinus fontinalis, also known as Eastern brook trout, speckled trout, coaster, aurora trout, square-tail, sea trout, spotted trout, mountain trout, char, is a species of the salmon Salmoniformes family. The brook trout is native to northeastern North America. Primarily from the Great Lakes, north to the Hudson Bay and east to the Atlantic and Artic Coasts.
Brook trout have a long, streamlined compressed body with a large mouth that extends past the eye. Color variations include olive, blue-gray, or black above with a silvery white belly and wormlike markings (vermiculations) on their back and head extending at least to the dorsal fin, and often to the tail. The lower fins are red with white front leading edge and black border and the remainder being reddish orange. The tail fin is square or rarely slightly forked. During breeding time in the fall male brook trout can become very bright orange-red along the sides.
Their color is dark green to brown on their back, lighter colored on their sides, and silvery to white on their belly. They have many light spots on their sides along with red dots surrounded by bluish halos, along the flank.
Often the belly, particularly of the males, becomes very red or orange when the fish are spawning. The species reaches a maximum recorded length of 33 inches (86 cm) and weight up to 14 lbs (9.4 kg). It can reach at least 7 years of age. The average brook trout is 10-12 inches in length and weigh 4-6 pounds. They are slow growing and short lived fish, rarely making it past 8 years. Some individuals migrate to large lakes or the sea and grow much larger and more silvery.
Brook trout require cool, clear, spring-fed streams and pools. They can be found under cover of rocks, logs, and undercut banks and have been described as stationary. Larger brook trout often inhabit deep pools moving to shallow water only to feed. Brook trout inhabit clear, cold mountain streams and lakes. They prefer a water temperature of 57-60° F. They are rarely found in water that is warmer then 68° F and if temperatures exceed 77-80° F it is fatal. Within 2 to 3 years they usually weigh 1 to 2 pounds.
In streams they prefer aquatic insects that live under the rocks and along the stream bottom. Land insects, like ants and beetles, that fall into the water are readily eaten, as are small crayfish. They will eat other small fish and minnows but only when they are easy to catch. The brook trout feast on a diet of insects, crayfish, leeches, and small fish.
Spawning generally occurs in the months of October and November. Brook trout mature at 3 years of age and spawn in spring-fed streams, spring seepage areas of ponds or rarely along shoreline areas next to stocking locations. It could be in riffle areas with gravel in lake shores with swift currents, or lake bottoms where groundwater seepage occurs for spawning. Female brook trout use their tails to create a spawning nest (called redd) in gravelly areas. Redds may measure 1 – 2 feet in size. Female brook trout can produce between 100 – 400 eggs depending upon the size and age of the individual. After spawning the female covers the eggs with gravel. Brook trout eggs must get continuous amounts of oxygen in order for the eggs to survive. Depending upon water temperatures the eggs will incubate 2 to 3 months before hatching into sac fry.
The sac fry remain in the redd until their yolk sac is absorbed. Then, when they are about 1 ˝ inches long, they venture away from the redd to feed. It takes about 2 to 3 years for them to mature and they usually do not live longer than 6 years. Brook trout living in streams often reach sizes between 7-9 inches. Great lake brook trout or coasters can attain larger sizes up to 25 inches and 10 lbs.
During the spawning season, the male develops vivid colors and a hooked lower jaw known as a “kype.” After spawning, they return to the lake. Brook trout may repeat the spawning each year thereafter during a maximum 5 to 6 year lifespan.
Brook trout can be caught from piers and rocky shores in the spring and summer. Stream fishing for brook trout occurs in the spring and autumn. Trolling also occasionally produces catches of brook trout during the spring and summer. Ice fishing in bays and especially in river mouths is popular during the winter months, making the brook trout a fish for all seasons. Favorite baits for all types of fishing, are artificial flies, small spoons, spinners, night crawlers, and spawn.
Fishing the river pockets and deep pools behind boulders in northern Canada, use fairly large three or four inch red and white, silver, or gold spoon lures. Cast the spoons using medium-weight spinning equipment with eight-pound test line. Other lures attractive to finicky brookies are red and white buck tail flies cast with ultra-light gear and a fly rod.
After the lure is cast, let it submerge beneath the surface, then slowly retrieve. Anglers have little trouble determining when a brookie is on the line; hooked brook trout are bold strikers though they tire easily after being pulled to the surface.
Fishing the small streams of the United States where brookies are found is a challenge. Usually, a large population of brook trout will live near urban areas surrounded by a dense wall of willows or alders. The growth along the small streams limits casting room, and renders some areas nearly inaccessible. Once an angler reaches the stream itself, a gently-presented bait on a No. 8 or 10 hook is a well-liked offering.
Use a fly rod and a four-foot long four-pound test leader, and carefully present the bait - grasshoppers, crickets, small dead minnows, worms, night crawlers, and caddis worms (from stream bottoms) are all viable choices. Still, the presentation of the bait is more important than the bait selected. Brook trout scatter easily, and at times, may demonstrate fussy eating habits.
A well-known ingenious method of presenting bait as naturally as possible is to float the bait on a piece of wood waiting until the wood drifts near the fish. Quietly pull the bait into the water over the desired location, and let it sink to the bottom.
In less brushy areas where a break in the surrounding growth permits space for a short cast, a spinning rod and ultra-light spinning equipment works nicely to flip the bait under overhanging brush. Again, anglers are reminded to quietly approach the stream, to avoiding spooking the fish.
Another approach to over-grown-stream fishing is to walk upstream through the middle of the water. Carefully select a small pool, kneel, and gently flip the bait to the far end of the pool with ultra-light spinning gear. Aim for a rock, log or other protruding object, and then gently pull the bait from the structure into the water. The brookies usually face upstream, and search for insects that fall into the pools.
In larger streams, brook trout avoid the deeper waters where they make easy prey for larger brown or cutthroat trout. Brookies prefer the shallower riffles, shore runs, and the shade offered by undercut banks.
In small beaver ponds and lakes, nervous brook trout are wary of large lures. Long, light fly rods or ultra-light spinning equipment with small spinners, spoons, flies, or bait is crucial. After a rain, lures work well to attract the trout in the temporarily discoloured waters. When casting, use the smallest lures possible. Where cool streams meet the ocean, silvery brook trout known as "salters" reside. These larger fish are relatively unknown to many anglers, though they offer great sport.