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Image of: Salvelinus fontinalis (brook trout)


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Image of: Salvelinus fontinalis (brook trout)

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Brook trout are found as far south as Georgia in the Appalachian mountain range and extend north all the way to Hudson Bay. From the east coast their native range extends westward to eastern Manitoba and the Great Lakes


Brook trout are found in three types of aquatic environments: rivers, lakes, and marine areas. Their living requirements in these environments are very specific. The freshwater populations occur in clear, cool, well-oxygenated streams and lakes. Brook trout thrive in these environments with temperatures that remain below 18.8 C and where there is little to no siltation. Stream dwelling brook trout require three habitat components, which include resting areas in pools, feeding sites near riffles or swiftly flowing water, and escape cover which normally is found along undercut banks, under woody debris, trees or large rock ledges. Brook trout that reside in marine environments migrate there from freshwater tributaries and tend to stay close to river mouths.

The brook trout's body is elongate with an average length of 38.1-50.8 cm, is only slightly laterally compressed; the body has its greatest depth at or in front of the origin of the dorsal fin (Scott and Crossman, 1985). Another physical characteristic of the brook trout is an adipose fin and a caudal fin that is slightly forked (Hubbs and Lagler, 1949). Brook trout have 10-14 principle dorsal rays, 9-13 principle anal rays, 8-10 pelvic rays, and 11-14 pectoral rays (Scott and Crossman, 1985). The brook trout also has a large terminal mouth with breeding males developing a hook or kype on the front of the lower jaw (Scott and Crossman, 1985).

The coloration of the brook trout is very distinct and can be spectacular. The back of the brook trout is dark olive-green to dark brown, sometimes almost black, the sides are lighter and become silvery white ventrally (Scott and Crossman, 1985). On the back and top of the head there are wormy cream colored wavy lines known as vermiculations which break up into spots on the side (Scott and Crossman, 1985). In addition to the pale spots on the side there are smaller more discrete red spots with bluish halos (Scott and Crossman 1985). The fins of the brook trout are also distinct; the dorsal fin has heavy black wavy lines, the caudal fin has black lines, the anal, pelvic and pectoral fins have white edges followed by black and then reddish coloration

Reproduction   Usually only a single male is able to fertilize the eggs that a female lays in a redd, but occasionally more than one male is able to do so. Usually the largest males are the most successful breeders.

Food Habits

The food habits of brook trout vary according to their age and life history stage. As fry, or very young fish, brook trout feed primarily on immature stages of aquatic insects (Everhart, 1961). In general a brook trout's diet can be likened to a smorgasbord of organisms with prey ranging from mayflies to salamanders (Wittman, 2001). A brook trout will virtually eat anything its mouth will accommodate, including mostly many aquatic insect larvae such as caddisflies, mayflies, midges, and black flies. Other organisms consumed include worms, leeches, crustaceans, terrestrial insects, spiders, mollusks, a number of other fish species (cannibalism is limited to spawning time and spring), frogs, salamanders, snakes and even small mammals like voles should they find one in the water. As brook trout become larger their diet shifts more towards a piscovourus one. Sea-run brook trout eat fish and intertebrates that are commonly found in marine environments.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

As a game fish the brook trout is very highly sought after and one of the most popular, especially in north eastern North America. The brook trout can be caught by fishing with artificial flies, spin casting, or with live bait (Scott and Crossman, 1985). Brook trout and their vastly popular sport fishing bring to a community related recreational activities such as camping, boating, and the need for gear, guides and transportation, all of which provide positive economic opportunities. Brook trout have been raised in hatcheries and distributed world wide in hope of creating the above mentioned opportunities in places where they do not natively occur or to reestablish and strengthen native populations