Maine to Georgia
High elevation streams
The brook trout is a popular game fish, not just because it tastes very good, but also because it puts up a pretty good fight despite its relatively small size. These beautiful fish historically thrived in rivers and streams stretching from Maine to Georgia, but land use pressures have relegated the remaining isolated populations to the headwaters of high elevation streams.
When it comes to water quality, Brook trout are the “canary in the coal mine”. The presence of brook trout in a watershed indicates that water quality is excellent. Declining brook trout populations can provide an early warning that the health of an entire stream, lake or river is at risk.
The average brook trout ranges from 10 to 16 inches in length and from about 11 ounces to 2 pounds in weight. They often grow considerably larger in lakes, where 4-pounders are not unusual. The largest brook trout ever caught weighed 14 1/2 pounds. The color ranges from olive-green to dark brown on its back, with a lighter shading on the sides and silvery-white on the underside.
Brook Trout are carnivorous, living primarily on the larvae of aquatic insects and adult terrestrial insects. During cold months, insect larvae found on the bottom make up most of the diet. In warmer months, the fish feeds on adult insects on the water surface. When they live in ponds and lakes, brook trout are more likely to eat minnows and even some small animals, such as salamanders.
Spawning for Brook Trout takes place over gravel beds. The fish often swim miles upstream to find a suitable spawning ground, with males usually going first and females joining them. The spawning season varies by climate, ranging from August in northern regions to December in southern regions.
The female clears a nesting era by stirring up a current with her caudal fin to get rid of silt and other debris. This is also a signal to a nearby male that he can begin courting. As the female releases her eggs into the gravel bottom, the male simultaneously discharges his milt. The number of eggs can range anywhere from 100 to more than 5,000, depending on the size of the female. After spawning, the female covers the eggs with gravel. It takes them about 140 days to hatch.
The average age of a brook trout is probably only 3 or 4 years, though some have lived as long as 7 years.
Did You Know?
Brook Trout, also known as “Brookies” are quick to respond to habitat improvements and in our area the numbers are rising due to conservation efforts by Trout Unlimited and a coalition of state and federal agencies.