Brook Trout Facts and Lifecycle

All About the Brook Trout

General Brook trout Facts and Spawning and Breeding HabitsIntroduction: John Ruskin once quoted, “No human being, however great, or powerful, was ever so free as a fish”. Fish are important in our society- it is true. They provide various means for different people; sometimes for feeding or recreation, but always as simple aspects of nature that make up a complex world of their own under the water. It is important for a list of reasons to learn more about different types of fish and their spawning habits. The type of fish covered today will be the Salvelinus fontinalis. This is the species of fish more commonly known as the brook trout or eastern brook trout.

 Get To Know the Brook Trout

The brook trout, as mentioned earlier is more formally known as the Salvelinus fontinalis. This species belongs to the order Salminoformes, which classifies the family of fish we commonly refer to as salmon. “Fontinalis” actually descends from the Latin phrase “of or from a spring or fountain”. Although the fish are very common, they hold the title of the ‘state fish’ for the USA states MichiganNew Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia. Looking upon a brook trout, you would see a color of green ranging to brown or even grey. The pattern of the skin is typically marble-like. The flanks generally contain red dots circled by blue halo’s. Towards the bottom of the fish, or the belly, there will be red or orange colors (even in the fins) especially in the male adult brook trout. Many enjoy looking upon brook trout because of the beautiful coloration that adorns the creatures. It is not rare to witness the bright splashes. More on sizing, the average fish will weigh anywhere from seven inches to twenty inches and could be around seven pounds or less than that down to less than one pound. (Although there are recorded brook trout as being much greater than the averages, the numbers above are just typical averages. Highest records of age in the brook trout occur in California getting up to 15 years of life.)

Where can you find these beauties, you ask? Besides so specifically the great states that were listed above as hosting these fish, they are found commonly in small streams, creeks, lakes, and spring ponds. Throughout North America, these brook trout are fairly common. The preferred location has been known to be clean and cold well-oxygenated streams. Because of the more common location preference of these brook trout, they are highly popular for fisherman- experts and beginners alike.

Spawning Habits of the Brook Trout

Spawning brook trout underwater.

Great looking Brook trout preparing for the spawn in a small Idaho creek.

Now that you have a better understanding of what the brook trout are all about, it is time to look a little deeper in to the life cycle and spawning habits of this creature. Understanding the spawning habits is important when breeding, planning to catch, and simply being informed of the process for general knowledge. To start out, let’s get a general definition going for spawning.

  • Spawning: the reproductive process of aquatic animals, such as fish, in which the eggs and sperm will be released, most typically into the water

Although there are different methods and approaches to spawning, most are similar in practice. Below is the life cycle and spawning cycle of specifically the brook trout.

  • Late Summer or Early Autumn: This is the general season frame in which brook trout will spawn. Variations of this time frame can range by fish, location, or the temperature of the water. The spawning peak has been said to be mid-October. The most craved area for brook trout is known to be a well-oxygenated and clean river bottom with loose gravel.
    • The selection of the breeding ground really depends on how sanitary the gravel is and how oxygenated the water is. Females will not choose grounds that are dirty or poorly oxygenated.
    • Female Job: So what happens is the female must select her location for nesting. This is called her “redd” which is ultimately the nest she builds in the gravel or location that she finds suitable for her eggs to be dropped. The female will swim in a different fashion on her side using the tail fins to move and clean gravel along the way creating her redd. Once this is completed, she will release her egg which may range from 100 to 400.
    • Male Job: As the female is creating her redd, the males begin to notice and ultimately crowd around her just waiting for the opportunity to allow their sperm to fertilize the eggs that the female will lay. If you have ever heard the Darwinian principle of “Survival of the Fittest”, this is a most clear example of the principle.
      • Survival of the Fittest: Charles Darwin founded the principle that the animals which display the most “fit” characteristics will ultimately survive and therefore reproduce. Whether “fit” characteristics refer to being smart, strong, fast, sneaky, camouflaged, or another advantageous trait, those that display whatever is necessary will in the end be the ones to exemplify overall success including procreation.
      • Finalization: Once the successful male earns the right to release his sperm and fertilize the lady’s eggs, the female will cover the depository with gravel for protection. Hopefully the eggs will survive throughout the winter months. This is the catch to all fall spawning. Many believe that the fall spawning practice of the brook trout simply come from the evolutionary aspect of where brook trout originally came from which make it seem more logical to spawn in the fall than it does now. Regardless, this is the common practice of the brook trout.
      • Spring: When spring rolls around, the eggs practically hatch and release the fry. It takes approximately 100 days to hatch from the day of fertilization. They will remain around the redd until the yolk sac is expended and then they will retreat to an area of shallow water. Aquatic plants provide much protection in the shallow water for the new brook trout hatching fry until they can mature.

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