The original range for brook trout included much of northeastern North America, which included streams of the Appalachian mountains as far south as Georgia and going west to the Hudson Bay and basins of the Great Lakes.
According to the fisheries biologist, there are two genetically distinct brook trouts strains, which includes the northern and southern strain. The boundary for these strains is the New River drainage in southwest Virginia. The southern strain is often referred to as speckled trout and is less diverse, making these brook trout populations more fragile to change and catastrophic events.
Appearance And Size
The brook trout Salvelinus fontinalis is a bright-colored fish with yellow spots all over an olive green back. This trout species has spots along the top of its back that are worm-like in shape. Along the trout’s sides, the color changes from olive to orange or red. The brook trout has scattered red spots bordered by pale blue along the sides. It has orange or red lower fins with a white and a black streak. The underside of the brook trout is a milky white color. The colors of the Brook trout are much more vivid during the spawning season in the fall. Unlike other salmon fish types, the brook trout has no teeth on the roof of its mouth.
Brook trout are generally slow-growing fish; the average brook trout reaches about nine to ten inches in length. The growth rate, longevity, and feeding habits depend on elevation, available forage, and water temperature. Headwater streams usually have the smallest trout, rarely producing brook trout over six to seven inches. In more productive lakes and ponds, brook trout live longer and achieve lengths over 20 inches and exceed ten pounds.
Brook trout live in small spring-fed pons and streams with gravel or sand bottom and vegetation. The most crucial factor in a brook trout habitat is water temperature. Brook trout thrive in water temperatures between 55 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This trout species can tolerate short periods of water temperatures up to 72 degrees Fahrenheit, but they will die 75 degrees if exposed for more than a couple of hours.
The optimal habitat for a brook trout has as many pools as riffles, which are the shallow parts of the stream with choppy water, a rocky bottom, clear, cold spring-fed waters with a stable flow, water temperature, and stable banks with a lot of vegetation and cover. Brook trout are sensitive to habitat disturbance, so a healthy brook trout population is generally considered a sign of a healthy stream with good water quality.
Brook trout feed on a wide range of organisms. These include worms, plankton, leeches, insects, mollusks, and fishes. Brook trout are known to be very opportunistic and will eat various insects, usually preferring adult and nymph forms of drifting aquatic insects. Ants, beetles, and small fish are the next favorites for brook trout when available. Generally, in small southern streams, the brook trout feed primarily on aquatic insects. In contrast, the population of brook trout in larger northern lakes and rivers feeds on insects and larger prey such as mice and minnows.
Brook trout may feed on virtually all life stages (adult, nymph, larvae) of aquatic macroinvertebrates. Terrestrial invertebrates, including beetles, caterpillars, spiders, and grasshoppers, provide a significant energy source during the growing season, while fish and aquatic invertebrates become the primary food source during winter.