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Brook Trout

A freshwater game fish (Salvelinus fontinalis) of eastern North America.

Commercially farmed because of their value as food, also used extensively as an experimental animal.
Anglers regard them highly because of their fighting qualities when hooked.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Brook charr, speckled trout, squaretail; French: Omble de fontaine; German: Bachsaibling; Spanish: Salvelino; Inuktitut: Iqaluk tasirsiutik.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Length 33.9 in (86.0 cm); maximum weight 20.7 lb (9.39 kg). Characterized by combination of dark green marbling on the back and dorsal fin, and by red spots with blue halos on the sides. Coloration can vary among populations and in reproductive states, with lower sides and fins red in spawning fishes. While migrating, dark green above with silvery sides, and white bellies and pink spots.

DISTRIBUTION

North America in most of eastern Canada from Newfoundland to western side of Hudson Bay; south in Atlantic, Great Lakes, and Mississippi River basins to Minnesota and northern Georgia, United States. In general, south of the Hudson River, distribution is correlated to altitude. For example, populations in North Carolina and Georgia are restricted to headwaters of streams in the Piedmont region of the Appalachians. Introduced in temperate regions all over the world.

HABITAT

Clear, cool, well-oxygenated creeks, small to medium rivers, and lakes.

BEHAVIOR

Migrates upstream in early spring, summer and late fall, migrates downstream in late spring and fall. As stream temperatures rise in the spring, may run to the sea (never more than a few miles [kilometers] from river mouths) and stay there for up to three months.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Opportunistic feeders, eating worms, leeches, crustaceans, insects, mollusks, fishes, amphibians, and even small mammals and plant matter. Littoral individuals exhibit lower physiological performance than do pelagic individuals, when restricted to feeding in the pelagic zones. Ocean-going populations are preyed upon by larger fishes and pinnipeds. Freshwater populations are vulnerable to larger fishes, otters, bears, and fish-eating birds.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Reaches sexual maturity between one and three years, with variable growth rates depending upon temperature conditions. Spawning takes place from October through December. Hatching takes about 100 days or longer if waters are below 41°F (5°C). The male courts females by attempting to drive them toward a suitable spawning gravel site that he will defend aggressively. If a female is receptive, she will choose a spot and dig a redd. Even while the female is digging, the male continues its courtship by darting alongside the female, swimming over and under her, and rubbing her with his fins. When the redd is complete, the pair enter the nest and deposit eggs and milt (sperm). The female then covers the eggs with small pebbles. Once the eggs are completely covered, she moves to the upstream end of the redd and begins digging a new redd. Early maturing, dwarf "jack" or sneaker males return to their home stream every year; "hooknose" males do so after several years in the ocean. The latter are not only larger, but also more colorful. Aggregations surrounding a female are composed of both "jacks" and "hooknose" males. Once the female releases her eggs, all males release their sperm, with the greater number of eggs being fertilized by the first male that enters the nest. Individuals of this species can reach 15 years of age in captivity.

ANGLING and COMMERCIAL USE

The brook trout is very popular with anglers, particularly fly fishermen. Today, many anglers practice catch-and-release tactics to preserve remaining brook trout populations, and organizations such as Trout Unlimited have been in the forefront of efforts to institute air and water quality standards sufficient to protect the brook trout. Revenues derived from the sale of fishing licenses have been used to restore many sections of creeks and streams to brook trout habitat. Brook trout are also commercially raised in large numbers for food production, being sold for human consumption in both fresh and smoked forms. Because of its dependence on pure water and a variety of aquatic and insect life forms, the brook trout is also used for scientific experimentation in assessing the effects of pollution.

Partially as a result of its popularity as a game fish, the brook trout has been introduced in some areas to which it was not originally native, and has become established widely throughout the world. In some parts of the world, the brook trout has had a harmful effect on native species, and is a potential pest.

Trout can sometimes come in a hybrid form when they cross with other species. The Tiger Trout is one such hybrid of the Brook Trout.

HUMAN CAUSED HABITAT DESTRUCTION

Brook-trout populations depend on cold, clear, well-oxygenated water of high purity. As early as the late 19th century, native brook trout in North America became extirpated from many watercourses as land development, forest clear-cutting, and industrialization took hold. Streams and creeks that were polluted, dammed, or silted up often became too warm to hold native brook trout, and were colonized by transplanted smallmouth bass and perch or other introduced salmonids such as brown and rainbow trout. The brown trout, a species not native to North America, has replaced the brook trout in much of the brook trout's native water. Brook trout populations, if already stressed by overharvest or by temperature, are very susceptible to damage by the introduction of exogenous species. In many lakes to which brook trout were once native, they have been extirpated by the introduction of other species, particularly percids but sometimes other spiny-rayed fishes.

In addition to chemical pollution and algae growth caused by runoff containing chemicals and fertilizers, air pollution has also been a significant factor in the disappearance of brook trout from their native habitats. In the United States, acid rain caused by air pollution has resulted in pH levels too low to sustain brook trout in all but the highest headwaters of some Appalachian streams and creeks.[1]. Brook trout populations across large parts of eastern Canada have been similarly challenged; a subspecies known as the aurora trout was extirpated from the wild by the effects of acid rain.

Today, in many parts of the range, efforts are underway to restore brook trout to those waters that once held native populations, stocking other trout species only in habitats that can no longer be recovered sufficiently to sustain brook trout populations.

 

 

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