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Brook Trout

Salvelinus fontinalis

Brook trout live in clear, cold freshwater streams and rivers in undeveloped areas throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
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Brook trout live in clear, cold freshwater streams and rivers in undeveloped areas throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

The brook trout is a brilliantly colored fish that lives in clear, cold freshwater streams and rivers in undeveloped areas throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Appearance:

  • Dark, olive green back with pale, worm-like markings
  • Bluish sides with yellow and red spots
  • Pale, yellowish-orange belly. In breeding males, belly is more vivid red or orange.
  • Body is typically wide in the middle and tapers at each end
  • Lower fins are orange-red with a white front edge followed by a black streak
  • Scaleless head with a rounded snout and large mouth
  • Grows to a maximum of 12 inches long, but most are no more than 9-10 inches long

Habitat:

  • Clear, cold, well-shaded freshwater streams, rivers and lakes, particularly in mountainous areas
  • Not tolerant of water temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Rarely found in areas with even a small amount of development

Range:

  • Found in streams and rivers in the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, including Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia

Feeding:

  • Feeds on insects, tadpoles, salamanders, small crayfish and small water snakes
  • Also eats small fish and minnows if they are easy to catch

Predators:

  • Larger fish
  • Birds such as ospreys and herons

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Spawns in autumn, mainly in late October to early November, during the day
  • Female uses her tail to create a shallow, 1- to 2-foot-wide nest or “redd” in a clean, gravelly area. She lays 100-400 eggs into the nest.
  • The male fertilizes the eggs and then the female covers them with gravel
  • Eggs incubate over the winter and hatch in early spring
  • Brook trout reach maturity in 2-3 years and live to about 6 years of age

Other Facts:

  • The state fish of New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia
  • The only trout native to the Chesapeake Bay watershed
  • Also called speckled trout
  • Popular with fly fishermen
  • While all other trout in the Chesapeake Bay watershed have dark spots on a light background, the brook trout has light spots on a dark background. This coloring helps camouflage brook trout from predators.
  • Some states supplement native brook trout populations by stocking streams with hatchery-reared fish
  • Since brook trout only survive in the cleanest and coldest of waters, they are often considered a good indicator of the health of the waterways where they live

Sources and Additional Information:




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