A COLDWATER CHAMPION
Brook trout are a native species to North America.
Their original habitat was limited to eastern Canada
and the northeastern waters of the United States, but
because of aggressive planting, they currently can be
found around the globe. A common story applies:
the encroachment of man and over-harvesting have
impacted native populations and reduced the original,
natural realm of this beautiful game fish.
In the United States, brook trout are often stunted in
growth due to less than ideal habitat including
overcrowded fish populations. Outside of the northeast,
brook trout can now be found all the way west to California,
northwest to Washington and southwest to Arizona, as well
as in many states in between. Anglers may still pursue big,
native fish in the Canadian waters of Manitoba, Ontario,
Quebec, and Labrador.
Brook trout evolved on the salmonid tree as a member of the
char sub-group. They have proven their ability to survive in cold, harsh environments, conditions in which members of the true trout family could not comfortably reside year-round. The brook trout thrive in such waters and, accompanied by the artic char, are cold water champions. Contrary to their name, brook trout are found in lakes and streams, as long as the water is cold and well-oxygenated; optimum water temperatures are around 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Some brook trout which inhabit coastal rivers also spend time in the saltwater. These fish are commonly called “coasters” or “salters.”
The coloring of the brook trout is olive-green to dark brown on the back, with lightening on the sides, to eventual silvery white along the belly. The fins are laced in white. The brookie, sometimes called a “speckled trout,” also has colorful spotting along its sides. During the spawning period, as normal coloring intensifies, the brook trout may be the world’s most beautiful freshwater fish. Especially upon the males, the belly develops an orange-red color, and spotting becomes brilliantly hued with halos, including colors of blue, purple, and yellow. When breeding, the males may develop a hook at the front of their lower jaw.
Brook trout typically spawn in the fall, preferring sand and gravel areas. During this time, there are often large aggregations of fish either along a lake shoreline or at the headwaters of a stream. Females dig the redd, and within a day deposit their eggs; depending on her size, the female will lay between 100 and 5000 eggs. The female then usually resides close to the redd. The males will dart in and fertilize the eggs. Hatching will vary depending on the region and habitat, but usually eggs will hatch 50 to 100 days after fertilization. As the brook trout grow, they prove a carnivorous and voracious fish, eating all types of insects, crustaceans and other fish, including cannibalizing their own.
The Minipi River system in Labrador is a brook trout fishery worth special recognition. There is prolific aquatic life in the form of caddis and mayflies that prompt the big fish in its waters, fish which weigh frequently in excess of 5 pounds, to look towards the surface for their nourishment. In this watershed, the fish have been protected and nurtured throughout the past several decades by thoughtful management initiated by Lee Wulff and extending to the Cooper family, who currently operates the fishing lodges on the drainage. There are fly fishermen who have fished the Minipi annually for the past twenty-plus years and have kept meticulous records on the fish caught and released. They comment on how the fishing today exceeds the fishery of old, both in size and number of fish; this is obviously a unique situation in today’s world of shrinking natural environments and is a tribute to the strong conservation principles practiced.
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