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Freshwater Fish - Trout
Trout are one of the most sought after angling species and will take a variety of natural and artificial baits. They favor cold, clear moving water—rivers and streams—but some species inhabit the depths of large lakes.
- Trout have fins entirely without spines, and all of them have a small adipose (fatty) fin along the back, near the tail. There are many species, and even more populations that are isolated from each other and morphologically different. However, since many of these distinct populations show no significant genetic difference, what may appear to be a large number of species is generally considered a much smaller number of distinct species. The trout found in the eastern United States are a good example of this. Several different types of trout have different physical characteristics and colorations, but genetic analysis shows that they are all the same species.
- Trout of the same species living in different environments can have dramatically different colorations and patterns that serve as camouflage based on the surroundings. The colors and markings can change as the fish move to different habitats. It is virtually impossible to define a particular color pattern as belonging to a specific breed, although many anglers feel that wild fish have more vivid colors and patterns.
Trout of various species range across North America, northern Asia and Europe, and, depending on the species, habitat, and food supply, can range from as little as 10 inches long and a few ounces in weight to nearly 70 pounds. Trout generally feed on soft bodied aquatic invertebrates, such as flies, mayflies, caddis flies, stoneflies, and dragon flies. In lakes, trout may feed extensively on various species of zooplankton. In general, trout longer than 12 inches prey almost exclusively on fish, if they are available. Adult trout will devour fish exceeding 1/3 their length.
Many trout species provide a good fight when hooked. Because of their popularity, trout are often raised in commercial hatcheries and stocked into heavily fished waters. While they can be caught with a normal rod and reel, fly fishing is a distinctive method developed primarily for trout. As a group, trout are somewhat bony, but the flesh is generally considered to be tasty.
AKA: Brookies, speckled trout
- Distinguishing Markings:
Brook trout have cream colored spots on a dark background, distinguishing them from many other trout species having the reverse coloration. The spots along the back (dorsal) are elongated and appear worm-like. The spots below the lateral line are round, red and each is surrounded by a bluish halo. The lower fins are highly distinctive and quite striking, with a white leading edge followed by a black streak and various shades of red, orange and yellow.
Brook trout are relatively small, rarely growing over 9 to 10 inches. A 12-incher is rare and considered a real trophy.
Native to eastern Canada and northeastern United States, brook trout extend as far west as eastern Minnesota. Their original range also included the Appalachian Mountains where they are still found in many high elevation streams as far south as Georgia. They have been widely introduced into several western states.
Brook trout favor clean, clear, cold streams.
- Food Preference:
“Brookies” are opportunistic feeders. In small streams, they prefer aquatic insects (nymphs) that live under the rocks and along the stream bottom, but they are also known to feed heavily on the adult stage of aquatic insects as they hatch and take flight. Brook trout will also take terrestrial insects such as ants, grasshoppers, and beetles that fall into the water; small crayfish; and other small fish and minnows when they are easy to catch.
Brook trout spawn in the fall months, peaking in late October and early November. Using their tail fins, the females construct a shallow depressions (called a redd) in clean stream gravel where they deposit eggs. After the male fertilizes the eggs, the female covers them with gravel. The eggs incubate through the winter and hatch in early spring.
- Fishing Tips:
Within their native range, brook trout are a prized, though small, game fish with a long heritage of associated fishing lore. Because of their small size, streams generally support relatively low numbers of adult trout. Brookies tend to spook easily and are a challenging quarry that requires considerable stealth to catch. Fly fishing and spin casting with light tackle and small, shiny lures are effective methods for taking the fish.
Brown trout tend to grow bigger, live longer, and tolerate a wider range of habitat types than either brook trout or rainbow trout. Fishermen consider them to be among the smartest, most difficult trout species to catch.
- Distinguishing Marks:
Brown trout vary greatly in appearance, but are generally olive green to brown on top shading to a creamy, golden-yellow on the sides and an off white along the belly. Most brown trout are covered with black spots along their sides, back, and dorsal fin with each spot surrounded by a light halo. Frequently, the spots near the lateral line are red. Unlike other trout species, brown trout tails have few if any spots.
Unlike brook trout, brown trout can grow to considerable size, up to 20 pounds. However, the average size is around 12 to 14 inches.
Brown trout are native to the British Isles and most of Europe, but because of their adaptability and widespread introductions, they are now found throughout the world wherever water is suitable.
Brown trout favor clean, clear, cold streams, but are more tolerant of temperature variations and turbidity than brook trout and other less adaptable trout species.
Brown trout will eat almost any prey item that it can swallow, including a variety of aquatic insects and invertebrates, small fish, crayfish, and a wide variety of land insects like ants, beetles, gnats, caterpillars, and inch worms. They are known also to eat frogs and the occasional mouse.
Brown trout spawning behavior is similar to the brook trout, but usually occurs a week or two later, from late October through November.
- Fishing Tips:
Brown trout frequently feed on the surface, making them a delight for fly anglers using dry flies. But, brown trout are intelligent and can frequently detect the difference between a natural insect and even a well-crafted imitation.
AKA: Rainbows, bows
Rainbow trout take well to life in a hatchery, are fairly disease resistant, and easy to rear.
- Distinguishing Markings:
The rainbows coloration varies widely, from location to location. Generally, rainbows have a greenish silver back and silver sides with a faint red band running the length of the lateral line. They are heavily spotted along the sides and top, including the dorsal and tail fins.
Fully grown rainbow trout average 10 to 13 inches, with some exceeding 20 inches.
Rainbow trout are native to North Americas Pacific slope, from the mountains in northern Mexico through the western United States, around Alaska and the Bering Sea, to the northern regions of Asia. They have been introduced into every state in the Union as well as introduced worldwide.
Rainbow trout favor clean, clear, cold streams.
- Food Preference:
Like other trout species, rainbows are opportunistic feeders and consume a large variety of aquatic and terrestrial insects and macro invertebrates. When stocked in large lakes, rainbow trout, unlike brook and brown trout, can grow very quickly strictly on a diet of lake plankton.
In their natural range, rainbow trout are spring spawners and rely heavily on meltwater from high mountain snow pack to trigger spawning. In other habitats, rainbows may spawn sporadically and intermittently at anytime between late summer and early spring.
AKA: Laker, mackinaw, lake char (or charr), touladi, togue, and grey trout.
Lake trout, like brook trout, actually belong to the char genus. They were fished commercially in the Great Lakes and on some northern Canadian lakes.
- Distinguishing Markings:
Lake trout are distinguished by its white or yellowish spots on a dark green to grayish background and its deeply forked tail.
Lake trout are the largest trout species; the record weighing over 100 pounds.
Lake trout are widely distributed from northern Canada and Alaska south to New England in USA and Great Lakes basin in Canada and the United States. They have been introduced to many areas outside its native range.
Lake trout inhabit many of the larger lakes in North America. They favor cold, oxygen-rich waters.
There are two basic types of lake trout populations: those that have year-round access to forage fish, and those that have to shift to feeding on plankton during the warmer summer months. Plankton-fed populations are very abundant, grow very slowly and mature at a relatively small size. Fish-eating lake trout grow much more quickly, mature at a larger size and are less abundant.
The lake trout is a slowly growing fish that matures very late and live much longer than rainbow trout.
- Fishing Tips:
Lakers usually eat fish in their own habitat; good baits to use are smelt, suckers, chubs, other lake trout, shiners, minnows, and fish strips. They also eat crustaceans, small mammals, and insects in their habitat, often adjusting their diet to what’s available. Since the lake trout tends to live in deeper waters, leadcore line or down riggers are popular methods to get your hooks deep enough. A good starting range is 30 to 60 feet, and if that yields nothing try higher if the water temperature is cold, and lower if it is warm. If fishing with live bait fails to attract any fish, try trolling streamers. Immediately after the ice-out, lakers can be found near the surface, which calls for different fishing techniques. At this time, flies work very well, until the laker retreats to deeper waters.
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