Brook trout
(Salvelinus fontinalis)



Common names in English

Brook trout. American brook trout. Common (eastern) brook trout.
Brook char(r). Brookie. Speckled trout. Eastern speckled trout.
Speckled char(r). Aurora trout. Sea trout. Breac. Mountain trout.
Mud trout. Lord-fish. Humpbacked trout. Squaretail. Whitefin.

Though commonly called a trout, the brook trout is actually a char, along with lake trout,
bull trout, Dolly Varden and Arctic char. This is why Europeans often have difficulties with the native North American species because many are named as trout while they actually are char.

Names in other languages

Danish: Kildeørred.
Dutch: Bronforel.
Finnish: Puronieriä.
French: Omble de fontaine. Saumon de fontaine. Truite mouchetée.
German: Amerikanischer Bachsaibling. Bachsaibling.
Icelandic: Lindableikja.
Inuit: Aanak. Ana. Âna. Aanaatlik. Anakleq. Anokik. Anuk. Iqaluk, Iqaluk tasirsiutik.
Italian: Salmerino di Torrente.
Japanese: Kawamasu.
Latvian: Avota palija.
Lithuanian: Amerikine palija.
Norwegian: Bekkerøue.
Polish: Pstrag zródlany.
Portuguese: Truta-das-fontes.
Russian: Amerikanskiy golets. Amerikanski goletz.
Spanish: Salvelino. Trucha de arroyo.
Swedish: Amerikansk bäckröding. Bäckröding. Källax.

Geographical origin

Eastern North America: much of Canada, from Newfoundland to the western side of Hudson Bay and in the United States, south through Massachusetts and along the Appalachians, and west to Minnesota.


Salvelinus fontinalis requires an undisturbed environment, and can accordingly serve as a sensitive indicator of water pollution and oxygen depletion. Brook trout avoids cloudy and muddy water with low levels of oxygen. The species has become relatively tolerant of low pH, and adults can withstand pH levels as low as 5.0, but are unable to cope if the water becomes more acidic than that.

The brook trout often lives alone clear, well-oxygenated rivers and small streams with temperatures around 10-18 degrees Celsius. In lakes they live together with several other fish species. They frequently swim in shallow water along the shoreline, but also can be found at greater depths as well. Brook trout are sometimes found in small ponds and springs too.

In North America, the brook trout shows considerable ecological similarities to the brown trout in Europe, spending its early years in tributary streams before becoming a lake dwelling predator, often feeding on Arctic char. In spring, brook trout may migrate between fresh waters and the sea, spending a short time (at most around three months) in the marine environment. These migrations are limited, however: the fish stay relatively close to river mouths, venturing no more than a few kilometres out to sea. Brook trout may run to the sea to avoid streams and rivers in which the water has become too warm, or because conditions have become unfavourable due to competition and shortage of food. In some cases, they overwinter in estuaries and migrate along the coast. Migrations do not involve all the fish in a population, nor do they occur every year. Brook trout that do migrate, however, usually grow larger and live longer than strictly freshwater individuals. Brook trout feed on insects, worms, molluscs, crustaceans, amphibians and fish.

Size and appearance

Adult brook trout living in fresh waters are green to dark brown, almost black, on their back and sides. The back and upper sides have yellow and yellowish green worm-like markings or marbling. The lower part of the back has small yellow or yellowish green and/or red spots. The dorsal and caudal fins are a darker brownish green, while the other fins are reddish brown, often with a white and black border on the leading edge. During the spawning period, the colours are intensified, the belly of the male turning a characteristic deep orange-red.

Brook trout sometimes migrate to the sea and remain there for a time before returning to fresh waters. Such fish are popularly known as “salters”. Adults in a saltwater environment have silvery sides, a dark blue or green back and a whitish belly. They may have pale red spots on the sides and on the white borders of their fins. On returning to fresh waters, they regain their earlier colours.Unlike Arctic char and lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush), brook trout rarely live for more than 9–10 years. Adults can grow to a length of about 80 cm, but usually reach just 30–45 cm. In Swedish waters, adult brook trout generally weigh just under 1 kg, although in fish farms they can reach a weight of 2–3 kg. In their native range, brook trout can be considerably larger, with a reported maximum weight of over 9 kg.


Ecological effects

Hybrids are fertile, which means that they are able to reproduce in the wild. This is true, for example, of “sparctic char” (also known as “sparctic trout” or “spar”, a cross between brook trout + Arctic char) and “splake” (brook trout + lake trout). The name splake comes from speckled trout + lake trout. This hybrid is also known as wendigo. The fact that sparctic char, splake, and the third hybrid combination, “larctic char” (a cross between lake trout and Arctic char), are able to reproduce naturally shows that Salvelinus species may be involved in the active formation of new species. American studies have found that splake grow faster than brook trout, live longer, and often feed on fish (including pike) that could otherwise pose a threat to brook trout.





Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus)

Lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush)










Pictures by Igloo Lake Lodge and Ina Stevens




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