BROOK TROUT Salvelinus

by Fly Fisherman

If trout can be regarded as aristocratic (and justly they are) this member of the race is the aristocrat of aristocrats. In this country the brook trout is “Native” to the Eastern seaboard states from the Canadian border to and including the Carolinas, west through Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota and south to include all states between except those that border the Gulf of Mexico, and east to the Mississippi.

Since about 1880 plantings of brook trout have been made in states west of the Mississippi where suitable waters were available. Although other trout species are greatly in the majority he has caught on and in a few streams and lakes the Brookie is, speaking figuratively, the sole occupant. Michigan, Wisconsin and New York, for example, where the brook trout was once the only habitant of its clear sparkling streams and lakes now finds him strictly in the minority, having been replaced by other species capable of weathering the onslaught of encroaching civilization and its handicaps peculiar to him. The last remaining stand of consequence of his once expansive native domain is the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the upper New England states, particularly Maine. As lands are cleared and his home waters become warmer his retreat is only to the North, where perhaps for a few generations yet he may fight off complete extinction. With few exceptions, in the interior of Canada, the brookie is still the dominating fish of the trout family.

The brook trout might be termed allergic to waters which are not completely pure, that lack an abundance of oxygen and are not warmer generally than 65 degrees in temperature. This means that in the more southern states of the area in which he lives he will be found only in the higher altitudes unless the lower streams arc amply fed by cold springs to bring the temperature down to his comfort range. He can and will survive in water temperatures upwards to 70 degrees but he doesn’t like it.

Although salvelinus fontinalis is not a true trout but is scientifically listed as a char (or charr), which places him a rung above trout, the difference in the form of his vomer, or part of his mouth, and his scale structure is so insignificant that only a heritical scholar would insist on the discrimination between species. This salvelinus family, of which fontinalis is the more prevalent, breaks up into eight other classifications as oquassa, alpinus, marstoni, agassizi, stagnalis, areturus and naresi. The nicknames by which they are more lovingly known are Eastern Brook, Brookie, Squaretail, Char, Springhole Trout, Red Spotted Trout, Eastern Char, Native, Rangely Trout, Speckled Trout, Mountain Trout, Silver Trout, The Wilderness Fish and there are probably many other local names.

In basic coloring the chars differ from the true trout. The trout invariably carry masses, or a sparse display, of dark spots on the skin in diverse patterns or arrangements. The char’s body is covered partially with round spots, which are paler than the general coloration of the fish. This, of course, is in conjunction with other color fixes peculiar to each different type of char.
The brook trout starts spawning at about his second year and does this generaly during the fall months. Reports, however, have him spawning as late as March in some instances. The eggs, nested in cold currents, hatch in from 90 to 200 days later dependent to a great extent upon water temperatures. His growth rate is slower than with other trout species even under the best conditions. This might account for his being outnumbered in most hatcheries. With the older spawners the female lays from 350 to 2,000 eggs which are left to the vagaries of the current and nature to complete the job.

The brook trout is considered the best fighter, from the angler’s view, in the trout family. Although there is little surface splashing and exhibitionism he thrashes around in a stubborn but exciting fashion giving the battle everything he’s got and that’s quite a lot. Some brookies weigh upwards of a pound at the age of two years while others the same age may not tip the scales at an ounce.

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