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Brook trout

Illustration of a brook trout

Illustration by Joseph R. Tomelleri ©

Salvelinus fontinalis - scientific name


Brook trout have a long, streamlined body with a large mouth that extends past the eye. Color variations include olive, blue-gray or black above with a silvery white belly and wormlike markings (vermiculation pattern) along the back. They have red spots sometimes surrounded by bluish halos on their sides. The lower fins have a white front edge followed by black and the remainder being reddish orange. The tail fin is square or slightly forked. During fall breeding time, male brook trout will develop a slight hooked jaw and become very bright orange-red along the lower sides which is highlighted by a black vertical stripe along the belly.


Brook trout are ready biters and they can be caught by using various baits and lures including worms, crickets, grasshoppers, wet and dry flies, spoons and spinners. They can be found in deep holes and under the cover of logs or overhanging banks in many streams where they often pursued by anglers drifting worms along the bottom. Small spoons, spinners and jigs are the most popular spinning lures. Brook trout are more diurnal than other trout, giving them a reputation among fly fishermen as "gentlemen trout," and are perhaps the least discriminatory.

The Black River system, in the northeastern Lower Peninsula, enjoys a reputation as being among the best brook trout streams in Michigan. Brookies are found in most major trout stream systems, but by summer, they have often migrated to the headwaters of the tributaries in search of colder water. Brook trout are widespread across the northern portion of the state, especially in the Upper Peninsula, where any stream that runs clear and cold is likely to hold a population of brook trout.

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Brook trout have been described as voracious feeders with the potential to consume large numbers seasonally available mayflies, stoneflies and other aquatic insects as well as terrestrial insects.  However, they will often feed on whatever is most readily available like zooplankton, crustaceans, worms and fish.

Life history: 

The brook trout is native to Michigan's waters and has been designated the state fish of Michigan. They can be found alongside rocks, under cover of logs and undercut banks, in cold water, spring-fed streams, rivers, lakes and in the Great Lakes. Larger brook trout often inhabit deep instream pools moving to shallow water feed. Spawning generally occurs in the months of October and November. Mature brook trout seek a gravel riffle area in spring-fed streams, seepage areas of ponds, lake shores with swift currents or groundwater seepages. Female brook trout use their tails to create a spawning bed (or redd). After spawning the female covers the eggs (up to 5,000 per female) with gravel. Brook trout eggs must stay silt free and get continuous amounts of oxygen rich water in order for the eggs to survive. Depending upon water temperatures, the egg incubation period is 3 to 4 months before hatching into sac fry, which remain in the redd until the yolk sac is absorbed. Brook trout take about 1.5 to 2.5 years to mature and they usually do not live longer than 6 years. Brook trout living in streams reach between 7 to 9 inches in length. Great Lake brook trout or coasters can attain larger sizes up to 25 inches and 10 pounds.

Did you know the DNR rears brook trout at Marquette State Fish Hatchery?