Common name: Brook Trout
Scientific name: Salvelinus fontinalis
Appearance: Brook trout are clearly identifiable by the red-within-blue spotsthat speckle thier dark-green sides, as well as the wavy, light green lines running horizontally from end to end.A brook trout’s underbellyis eithersilvery white or red.
Distribution: “Brook Trout” are not actually a trout at all, but a relative of the char group. Their only connection with real trout is that they share the same natural range throughout the northern US and Canada, though they’ve since been introduced to other regions and continents.
A rapidly disappearing species, the once-omnipresent brook trout can now only be found in abundance in Maine, Idaho, Montana, and parts of Canada. The reason for this is that the cold, clear waters book trout originally inhabited are becoming steadily warmer and murkier from pollution.
Spawning: The spawning season for brook trout varies based on climate, running from September to December in the south and earlier the farther north you go (as early as summer in the upper reaches of Canada). Brook Trout will gather in cool streams and begin feeding aggressively – even recklessly – before moving upstream to lay their eggs in gravel patches. Just be sure to release any females you catch during the spawn (males are bright red, females will be more drab-colored) as every batch of eggs is critical to this threatened species’ continued survival.
Angling: Because they prefer cooler temperatures, yet are scared of deep water where bigger fish prowl, brook trout often hide out in shallow waters shaded by trees and bushes along the shoreline. This leaves two options for the fisherman, both of them inconvenient: either crawl through the brush or strap on waders and approach by sea. Whatever you end up doing, do it slowly and quietly as brookies will scatter at the slightest noise. Whether by natural instinct or from centuries of being hunted by humans, brook trout tend to be extremely suspicious, only striking at very well-presented baits and fleeing at the first hint of a fisherman’s presence. They also prefer smaller prey – and smaller lures – not wanting to pursue anything that might attract a bigger predator. Brightly colored spoons on medium-weight gear or bucktail flies on ultra-light gear tend to work best with these finicky eaters. A slow retrieve is advisable, so as not to startle the fish. Bear in mind that Brook Trout generally strike hard, but get exhausted quickly, so don’t assume you’ve lost it should the fish stop tugging as you reel it in.