Brook Trout

Salvelinus fontinalis

Quick Facts

  • Species

    Native

  • Habitat

    Live in clear, cold, well-shaded freshwater streams, rivers and lakes, particularly in mountainous areas. Prefer cool, clean waters; not tolerant of water temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit and 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.

  • Diet

    Feeds on insects, tadpoles, salamanders, small crayfish and small water snakes

  • Lifespan

    Average 6 years

  • Status

    Stable

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

Brook trout can grow up to 12 inches in length, but most are no more than 9 to 10 inches in length. Their body is typically wide in the middle and tapers at each end. Its dark, olive green back has pale, worm-like markings. Its sides are bluish with yellow and red spots. It has a pale, yellowish-orange belly; in breeding males, the belly is more vivid red or orange. The brook trout's lower fins are orange-red with a white front edge followed by a black strea. Its scaleless head has a rounded snout and large mouth.

Feeding

Brook trout feeds on insects, tadpoles, salamanders, small crayfish and small water snakes. They also eat small fish and minnows if they are easy to catch.

Predators

Larger fish and birds such as ospreys and herons prey upon brook trout.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

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

Did You Know?

  • Brook trout are the state fish of New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. They are the only trout native to the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
  • The brook trout is also called a speckled trout.
  • These fish are 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

Quick Facts

  • Species

    Native

  • Habitat

    Live in clear, cold, well-shaded freshwater streams, rivers and lakes, particularly in mountainous areas. Prefer cool, clean waters; not tolerant of water temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit and 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.

  • Diet

    Feeds on insects, tadpoles, salamanders, small crayfish and small water snakes

  • Lifespan

    Average 6 years

  • Status

    Stable