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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)
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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