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What is a Brown Trout?

A Brown Trout is a freshwater fish renowned for its striking golden-brown scales and elusive nature. Thriving in cool, clear streams and lakes, it's a favorite among anglers for its challenging catch and culinary appeal. As an indicator species, its health reflects the ecosystem's vitality. Discover how the Brown Trout's lifecycle contributes to aquatic biodiversity—what secrets does it hold beneath the surface?
Debra Durkee
Debra Durkee

The brown trout is a relative of the Atlantic salmon, and is found in freshwater rivers and lakes throughout the European continent, North America, and the British Isles. Also known as sea trout, these fish are a favorite among anglers. A notoriously shy fish, numbers are carefully maintained by natural and artificial means. Other common names include the breac and the brownie.

Reaching up to 20 inches in length (about 50 cm) and weighing up to 4.5 pounds (2 kg), the brown trout is a member of the Salmonidae family. This family includes other kinds of whitefish, salmon, and trout, many with a similar body shape to the brown trout. The back and sides of the fish are brown, dark along the spine, and lightening toward the cream-colored belly. Darker areas of the fish are spotted with brownish-red spots, camouflaging it against the riverbeds of its native environments. Males can be distinguished from females by their distinctive, curved lower jaws.

Earthworms can be used as bait to catch brown trout.
Earthworms can be used as bait to catch brown trout.

Originally found throughout freshwater rivers in Europe, the brown trout was introduced to North America in the late 1800s. Since then, it has been established in areas such as the Great Lakes, where it can reach larger sizes than its European relatives. A hardy fish, it is able to survive in conditions that many other related fish find intolerable. This has made it a popular choice for reintroducing fish to troubled environments.

Generally only active at night, the brown trout avoids predators that are active during the day. Fishermen hoping to catch these fish head out at dusk and often remain on the water until well after dark in order to reel in these somewhat elusive fish. Inhabiting freshwater rivers, they also use sunken trees and shoreline bracken for cover. The majority of the fish's diet is made up of insects and larvae, although they have been known to consume frogs and small fish. Nightcrawlers and worms generally make appropriate bait in all areas where they are found.

Brown trout spawn during the late autumn to early spring, depending on the region. Females swim along the bottom of the river, along the shores, or through estuaries, and release their eggs, which are then fertilized by the males that travel alongside them. Covering the eggs with dirt or sand from the bottom of the river is the extent of the parents' care for the young. Young brown trout have spots similar in size and shape to those of adults, but are generally bluish in color.

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    • Earthworms can be used as bait to catch brown trout.
      By: Dusty Cline
      Earthworms can be used as bait to catch brown trout.