Brook Trout

General Informatiom:

Brook trout are the only stream-dwelling trout native to the Great Lakes. In search of clear, cool, and well-oxygenated water, they often move out of streams and into the estuaries and bays of the Great Lakes. Those brook trout that move into such areas are called "coasters."

All of these savory trout grow quickly on a smorgasboard of living organisms -- everything from mayflies to salamanders. At its optimum water temperature of 55 degress Farenheit, a coaster will eat half its weight in minnows in one week.

Though natural populations of brook trout reside in Lake Superior, Minnesota and Wisconsin are also stocking several thousand of these fish each year to help maintain the "coaster" variety as well as the stream-dwelling native. This benefits not only sport fishermen but predators like kingfishers and mergansers as well.

Coasters weigh on average 2-3 pounds and are usually heavier than stream-dwelling brook trout. The largest brook trout on record, caught on Ontario's Nipigon River, weighed 14.5 pounds. Whatever the size, the brook is relatively easy to catch and has a sweet and delicate meat rivaling that of whitefish and walleye.

In Lake Michigan, where alewives and other forage fish are readily available, brook trout are spared predation by larger salmon. However, kingfishers, mergansers and sport fishermen catch a good percentage of these valued game fish during their three- to six-year lives.

Modest stocking programs in northern Lake Michigan are helping to maintain the brook trout as a coaster as well as a stream-dwelling native. In recent years, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has stocked a new strain of brook trout from Lake Nipigon in Ontario, Canada, to see if it will do better in the Great Lakes than its more domesticated cousins.

Identifying the Brook Trout

Brook trouts look quite a bit like lake trouts, but you can distinguish the brook trout by its brighter colors. Another difference is that the lake trout has a forked tail (v-notched edge), and the brook trout has a straight tail. Both fish have perfectly white edging on all lower fins (anal, pelvic, and pectoral). The colors of the brook trout intensify at spawning time, and the lower body of the male becomes an orange-red (like our mascot fish at left).

An additional complication in identifying this fish is that Great Lakes

Great Lakes brook trout

Inland lake brook trout

Look for:

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