The Coaster Brook Trout of the Great Lakes

This post was last updated on August 6th, 2022 at 06:45 pm

Coaster brook trout from Lake Superior
This image is courtesy of US fish and wildlife service.

These fish are an anadramous (fish that migrate into rivers to spawn) in the form of brook trout. These coasters spend part of their lifes in the big lake waters of Lake Superior.

Local residents named them “coasters” or “rock trout”, because of their habit of generally being found in rocky habitat near the shoreline of the lake. These trout come into small rivers to spawn and will eat flies and all other conventional lures and baits. They generally become quite large compared to brook trout that spend their entire lives in rivers and creeks.

These trout feed mostly on bait fish and smaller trout allowing them to grow quickly. While in the lakes they are typically much more silver colored and lack a lot of the indicative colors that the brook trout is known for. Once in the rivers, they soon develop the bright coloration that we all know and love.

Coaster Brook Trout Populations

In the middle of the 1800’s anglers from all over the globe came to fish in this area for the coaster brook trout. Without any type of regulation, the population was quickly decimated to critical levels. By mid 1900’s very few populations of these fish still existed. Since then great efforts have been made by US and Canadian officials to help ensure the future of the wild coasters.

The Ongoing Efforts to Help the Struggling Wild Populations

Examples of work completed include:

  • Removal of dams and obstructions preventing the fish from easy access to spawn
  • Collection of eggs to breed a viable population in hatcheries
  • In 2001 about 200,000 of these brook trout were stocked in various locations in upper MI
  • The storage of eggs and DNA to help ensure the future of these anadramous trout

The USFWS abstract plan states: “The goal for brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) rehabilitation in Lake Superior is to maintain widely distributed, self-sustaining populations throughout their original habitats. Reaching the goal will require, singly or in combination, actions to restore tributary habitat, regulate harvest, and introduce genetically appropriate strains through stocking.”

In the salmon trout river near Marquette MI, some research and action has been taken by Michigan Tech and contributions to remove debris and sand by the use of a sediment collector to keep sand off a known spawning area. This sand threatens the normal spawning location for over 200 coasters that use the area to breed.

The video below is property of Michigan tech, it shows a pod of spawning coaster brook trout in an upper MI river. I am quite certain this video takes place in the area where the sediment collectors are in place to keep sand off the brook trout redds.


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