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What is a Brook Trout?

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  • Written By: Lori Kilchermann
  • Edited By: Jacob Harkins
  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2016
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The brook trout is a member of the salmon family. It is often called a trout, but it is actually a char. Other members of the char family include the arctic char, lake and bull trouts, and Dolly Varden. Native to streams and lakes, this fish can be found in the Great Lakes region north to Canada, west to eastern Iowa, south from Georgia, and north to the Hudson Bay area. The brook trout has a marbled green to brown coloration with red dots and blue halos. The front edge of its fins have a white color and its belly is a reddish color.

The brook trout lives a relatively short time, rarely surviving for more than four of five years. Its diet consists of frogs, crustaceans, and small marine mammals like voles, insects and worms. Often the victim of lamprey eels, the brook trout is also preyed upon by many seabirds. The brook trout prefers cold, clean water and is very sensitive to pollution.

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While most brook trout are fresh water fish, some actually swim out to sea for three or more months prior to returning to the river to spawn. The species typically spawn in either late summer or early autumn. They swim upstream and the female will create a depression in the river bottom with her tail. This is called a redd. Once the female has deposited her eggs into the redd, several males will fertilize the eggs and then the female will cover them with gravel, again using her tail. The eggs take about 100 days to hatch.

The brook trout is a valued quarry of fly fishermen. This popularity has caused the brook trout to be introduced to non-native waters around the globe. Its sensitivity to pollution has deemed it a popular species for scientists examining the effects of pollution on fish and ecosystems as well. The practice of catch-and-release fishing has helped it retain its numbers throughout the Midwest.

The longest existing record of a brook trout dates to 1915 in Canada. A 31-inch trout was weighed after 21 days in the bush without refrigeration. The trout was badly decomposed, but still weighed in at 14.5 pounds. A 29-inch trout was caught in 2006 in Manitoba, Canada, but its weight was not recorded since it was released alive. The short lifespan of the fish prevents it from growing to a very large size.

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