Brown Trout fish identification, its habitats, characteristics, fishing methods.
The species has been widely introduced for purposes of sport into North America, South America, Australia and New Zealand. The most distinguishing characteristics of the brown trout include large black and sometimes reddish-orange spots with a pale border on the sides of the fish. These spots are modified Xs when the fish is large. The food of the adult brown includes terrestrial and aquatic insects, worms, crayfish and fish. Brown trout prefer water temperatures between 55 degrees and 65 degrees F. and are typically found in near shore waters. This wary fish can be taken more readily in early morning and twilight hours. Light line is in order using conventional lures or natural baits.
The brown trout - Salmo trutta morpha fario and and the sea trout are fish of the same species. Also known as Salmo trutta or German Brown Trout, German Trout, English Brown Trout, Von Behr Trout, Lochleven Trout, European Brown Trout, Truite, Breac, Gealag, Brownie. The brown trout is normally considered to be native to Europe and Asia. There are also landlocked populations far from the oceans, like in Greece and Estonia.
The brown trout very similar in shape to the salmon; the back is dark, the sides pale, and both are flecked with variable reddish spots that have pale borders. The belly is a creamy yellowish-white. Juveniles and immature adults can be distinguished as they have bluish-grey spots, and adult males have a strongly curved lower jaw.
The brown trout is a medium sized fish, growing to 20 kg or more in some localities although in many smaller rivers a mature weight of 1 kg (2 lb) or less is common. Like the rainbow trout, their size generally relates to the size of the water they can be found in. Smaller creeks are usually home to smaller fish, while double-digit fish are common in large lakes.
Freshwater brown trout feature a brassy brown cast fading to creamy white on the fish's belly, with medium-sized spots surrounded by lighter haloes. Regional variants include the so-called "Loch Leven" trout, distinguished by larger fins, a slimmer body, and heavy black spotting, but lacking red spots. The continental European strain features a lighter golden cast with some red spotting and fewer dark spots.
Brown trout are brownish in overall tone. The back and upper sides are dark-brown to gray-brown even gold, with yellow-brown to silvery lower sides, a cream to white-yellow -colored belly. Large, dark black, gray or yellow spots are outlined with pale white halos on the sides, the back and dorsal fin, with reddish-orange or yellow spots scattered on the sides. The fins are clear, yellow-brown, and unmarked. This species has a very noticeable spotted adipose fin between the dorsal and caudal fin. There are no spots on the squarish tail or wormy marks on the back. Like other trout and salmon, breeding males develop a long, hooked jaw and brighten in color. Wild brown trout in infertile streams may grow only slightly larger than the brook trout there. But in more fertile streams brown trout that weigh a pound are common. A species over 10 pounds is a trophy but they may exceed 30 inches in length.
Brown trout like well-oxygenated creeks and streams with plenty of cover and pools, although trout also do well in food-rich backcountry lakes and rivers. They prefer cold water with temperatures ranging up to 79 degrees. Their preferred habitat includes areas of boulders, cobble, logs, rootwads and overhead cover. Brown trout will feed in riffles containing rock as small as gravel.
Brown trout feed near the bottom about 75 percent of the time. Brown trout are active both by day and by night and are opportunistic feeders. While in fresh water, the diet will frequently include invertebrates from the streambed, other fish, frogs, mice, birds, and insects flying near the water's surface.
The Brown trout lives in cold or cool streams, rivers, lakes and impoundments. It is more tolerant of siltation and higher water temperatures than Brook trout. A Brown trout’s optimum water temperature range is 50 to 60 degrees, although it can tolerate water temperatures in the low 70s. Like brook trout, they are also somewhat tolerant of acidity. Brown trout may be found in all of the state’s watersheds, from limestone spring creeks, infertile headwaters and swampy outflows to suitable habitat in the larger rivers and reservoir tail-waters. Some brown trout can “hold over” after they are stocked. They can last a year or more in a stream, because they are adaptable to stream changes and are not that easy to catch.
Young Brown trout feed on insects and other invertebrates but the larger fish are active predators of fish including young brown trout, suckers, sculpins, shad, whitefish and rainbow trout. Larger Brown trout will also feed on small terrestrial animals that fall into the water. Brown trout sometimes do not actively feed until the late afternoon or early evening but when the weather is cool they will feed during the day as well. The largest browns feed under cover of darkness.
The spawning behavior of Brown trout is similar to that of the closely related
Atlantic salmon. Brown trout spawn in the fall, a little later than Brook trout, when water temperatures are in the mid-40s to high 40s, from the last week in October until the middle of December, with peak spawning occurs in early-mid November. Once the water temperatures drop to about 12C and the ratio of sunlight to night and water levels are right, they start their migration runs. They have to increase their food intake in order to develop the eggs and milt (sperm) for spawning, and for making their long and arduous runs up the rivers to their spawning beds.
Once the female reaches the spawning grounds, she starts looking for the proper environment to lay eggs. She is very selective on the location of her nest (called redd). She prefers a water depth of 24-45cm, but will spawn as shallow as 12-18cm. Water velocity optimal range 40-70cm/sec. Very good spawning sites where water flow through gravel or water currents flowing downward into the gravel. They prefer gravel sized from 3-15mm allow excellent flow of water through them while trapping sand and silt in the upper 10 mm of the nest (forms a sand/silt barrier), but allowed water to pass through the redd to the eggs, but they will spawn in anything what is available.
Female build a nest to dig out a hollow in the gravel, with her tail, using a fanning motion. This will help loosen and remove sand/silt and debris from the nest. The male brown trout will chase off competing males for the right to spawn with her. Spawning will occur as soon as water temperatures drop to 7-9C, and photoperiod and water levels are right. The female swims into the hollowed redd she has made and the male swims beside her. As she releases her eggs into the redd, the male releases his milt into the water in order to fertilize the eggs. Several males may accompany the female during spawning.
A typical female produces about 2,000 eggs per kilogram (900 eggs per pound) of body weight at spawning. Large females can produce 4,000 to 12,000 eggs. Eggs are deposited in a stream gravel depression that the female prepares with swimming actions of her fins and body. Once she has released some of her eggs, she will gently cover the eggs with gravel, using her tail. This action also cleans the gravel of sand/silt and debris, allowing better flow of water to the eggs. She may place all her eggs in one large redd, or lay some of her eggs and select a different location for the rest of her eggs.
The eggs have many challenges to overcome before being hatched. Not very many eggs will survive to hatch and emerge into the river. Some eggs are not fertilized and other eggs are damaged when female places the gravel over them. Sometimes another trout will pick the same location to spawn after she has, and destroys the whole nest. Some of the eggs could freeze during a severely cold winter, especially closest to the surface. Floods into spawning grounds will damage and/or wash away the redd. Fungus can also infect the redd, spreading from egg to egg until the whole redd is destroyed. Insects can also damage some of the eggs. Excessive sand and silt (due to soil erosion what is the major contributing factors in reduced spawning habitat) will smother and kill the eggs. It’s not surprising that only about 10% of the eggs laid actually emerge as fry, under ideal conditions.
The eggs slowly develop over the winter, surviving on their yolk sack. Their development is determined by the water temperature. The higher the temperature, the faster the eggs develops, with hatching usually occurring the following spring from the end of April until mid May. This is timed so that there will be food available for the fry. If all conditions remain optimal and the egg hatches, the fry still has to work its way through the gravel and break through the sand/silt layer in the gravel until it is free. The eggs hatch with no parental attention. Their amazing homing ability will return them to exactly the same location from which they were hatched.
Brown trout rarely form hybrids, almost invariably infertile, with other species. One such example is the tiger trout, a hybrid with the brook trout.
Brown trout eat aquatic and terrestrial insects, crayfish and other crustaceans, and especially fish. The big ones may also eat small mammals (like mice), salamanders, frogs and turtles. Large browns feed mainly at night, especially during the summer. Their life span in the wild can be 10 to 12 years.
Brown trout can be caught with artificial flies, spoons, spinners, jigs, plastic worm imitations, live or dead bait fish (where allowed) and lures. The high dietary reliance upon insect larvae, pupae, nymphs and adults is what allows trout to be a favored target for fly fishing. Sea trout are especially fished for at night using wet flies.
The start of this season will change, depending on your location, the severity of the winter, and how hard spring kicks in. Farther south, they will start fishing much earlier than up north. In mid Michigan, we are usually chasing browns by early April, sometimes as early as February. As soon as the ice is blown out and you can launch a boat, there are browns to be had. Usually the fishing will improve as the water temp gets into the low 40's F.
Browns will be scattered along the shoreline this time of year, searching for food. River mouths, harbors, creeks, and points all seem to hold fish early in the year. The biggest factor will be finding warm water. River mouths and harbors will usually have warmer water than the main lake, and probably will produce the earliest baitfish. This in turn will attract the larger predators. A degree temperature change is huge this time of year and can make the difference between catching fish and just fishing. When fishing the shoreline, try the shallow sandbars and troughs. Cover water depths of 4 to 15 feet of water. This shallow water will warm up faster than the deeper water and usually will hold early browns.
Brown trout are a territorial species that prefer staking out a protected homeland near the edges of fast currents. Any obstruction in the water that may provide cover for the light-sensitive fish is a good area to cast. Fish for browns in the same waters as described for rainbow and brook trout, but remember that the warm water/low-oxygen tolerant browns may be overlooked by anglers that bypass the slow, deep pools in the river. As like the largemouth, cast for big browns near rock piles, brush mounds, and submerged logs. The larger predatory browns are sometimes indiscriminate feeders, known to eat water snakes, ten-inch brook trout, young muskrats, and birds.
Cast crawfish, night crawlers, and average-sized minnows at dusk, night, and during overcast days and in shaded spots. The light-sensitive browns most readily take the weighted bait when it is presented within a few feet of the fish. Use medium-weight spinning or bait casting tackle and thread the minnow on a No. 4 hook. Tie the hook directly to the fishing line (usually eight-pound test line), and add enough weight a foot-and-a-half above the hook to bring the minnow to the river bottom in a fast current. Cast upstream from where the suspected fish reside, letting the current carry the bait. Direct the bait by lifting the rod tip to avoid hang-ups. If the bait gets caught and the line must be cut, the fishing spot is generally ruined for the rest of the day. Once the bait reaches the suspected fish's hideout, let it sit for as long as patience allows.
Presenting spinning lures and spoons is not an easy task, especially since the fish prefer protected brushy areas in rivers. Gold-finished spinning lures and spoons, fished slowly downstream, consistently catch the larger browns. If a fish approaches the lure but is hesitant to strike, try resting the lure for ten to twenty minutes. Next, tie a streamer fly directly to the lure's tail hook with a foot of ten-pound test monofilament and recast the lure as close to the sheltered areas as possible.
In large, open rivers with few obvious obstructions for the trout, the fish will likely reside in the deepest water holes behind rocks or other breaks in the river current. Undercut banks and other objects providing cover for the light-sensitive browns are productive fishing grounds. Cast weighted lures (lead-head jigs, tailed with an optional minnow, night crawlers, or crawfish) upstream and hold the rod diagonal to the current. The slower the lure moves across the bottom floor the better; motionless jigs in fast currents attract attention, and work better than the faster-worked spinning lures and spoons. In high and discoloured waters - especially after a downpour - black or brown jigs appear a non-threat to cautious trout. In low and clear water, brighter white or yellow jigs are more natural-looking lures.
Fly-fishing for brown trout is very difficult in certain areas, but is that much more rewarding. The brown's obstruction-filled habitat frustrates many anglers who must contend with brush piles and tree branches to present the dry flies upstream (for a natural presentation). In some open rivers, large hatches of aquatic insects increase the fly angler's odds of catching larger-than-average browns on dry flies. Consult the local fishermen and shops to find which size, colour, and presentation of the flies most resemble the local river insects. A generally dependable fly is a brown Muddler Minnow with a gold coloured body. In areas where the trout are not actively feeding on the surface, large weighted nymphs and streamers are consistent producers.
The browns that inhabit smaller lakes and ponds are extremely alert and difficult to catch during the day. Casting in the shallows will often spook the huge fish, but some browns overcome their initial caution and will strike a live minnow dropped to the bottom of the deepest water and left to sit. At night anglers may have better luck landing a big fish with a bass plug.
The Great Lakes boast the best brown fishing in North America, if not in the world. Extensive stockings of browns in the seventies have remained underfished because the fish are sensitive to the vibrations from boats and the fish do not respond to the trolling tactics most anglers use for salmon and lake trout. To catch the sensitive big browns, use six or eight-pound test line and troll a silver spoon or wobbling crank bait around 200 feet behind the boat. At this line length, the lure will remain in the oxygen-rich thermocline layer between thirty and sixty feet deep, without spooking the wary browns.
Anglers may cast for Great Lake big browns in both the spring and fall, and any other tributary streams that carry spawning browns from smaller lakes and ponds. In the spring, wade the shoreline and cast small silver spoons with light spinning tackle at the mouth of the feeder streams where the smelt and alewives run. Spring fishing is even better after a rain when the water is discoloured and the brown trout move into shallow water (three feet deep or shallower) to feed. The fish will roll in the cold water, like spawning carp, but will rarely jump out of the water. Once a brown takes a lure, it will swim for deep water. Use a spinning reel with at least 300 yards of line; the spring brown trout range from an average of ten to over thirty pounds, and need extra line to run or they will break the line.
In spring and fall when the browns feed throughout the day, try trolling without a down rigger in clear water at ten or fifteen feet deep. Again, use 150 feet of line to ensure the fish are not disturbed by the surface commotion. Or, use ultra-light spinning tackle with four-pound test line and cast small blue or white lead-head jigs along the shore drop-offs and shaded rocky areas. Polarized sunglasses help anglers see the fish, but casting to individual fish is a challenging art. In the large impoundments of the southern and southwestern U.S., use the same technique to cast to brown trout along the shore in the winter. Whichever method an angler uses, be as quiet as possible.
When fishing shallow water for browns, light line and stealth presentation can be very important. Light line or light leaders should be used for a more natural presentation. Also, the use of planer boards or inline planers will improve your odds. This will also allow you to run more lines and cover a wider spread to intercept more fish. If running lines off the back of the boat, lengthen out your leads to get your bait farther away from the noise of the boat.