Stream trout are considered some of the most beautiful fish to catch; even the settings they are normally caught in are perfect. They are a cold water fish and require water with high-oxygen content in order to survive. Stream trout require moving waters when spawning, it keeps their eggs aerated.
There are four different types of stream trout: brook, brown, rainbow and cutthroat. Brook trout are considered the easiest to catch because they normally live in the upper regions of streams where the water is about 54ºF, their preferred temperature. Rainbows prefer waters at about 55ºF and like relatively swift water. Cutthroats are mainly found in the west but stay in the same temperature of water as rainbow trout. Brown trout are considered the hardest to catch and live in slower moving warmer streams at about 65ºF.
Rainbows and cutthroats spawn in the spring while brown and brook spawn closer to fall. They all build redds which are depressions in the streambed gravel where the eggs are deposited. Once the eggs are deposited they are covered with gravel and left to incubate. Because of the fast waters these fish spawn in, the eggs are aerated so stream trout cannot reproduce in lakes. The parents do not make any attempt to protect the young.
Stream trout rely on insects in both adult and larval form for their diets. Lake-dwelling stream trout however do eat small fish especially as they grow older and if they inhabit a warmer stream. Other foods for these trout include crustaceans, worms, frogs, plankton and fish eggs. Many fishers must try to ‘match the hatch’ to catch trout.
Brown trout for example are very picky about what they eat. Rainbow trout can be selective but will not be as choosy as the brown trout. Cutthroat and brook will take almost anything you throw at them.
Trout are known for their wariness because they have many predators. Many kinds of birds, mammals, crustaceans and other fish prey upon them. As soon as a trout is spook, they will take cover in vegetation, felled trees, boulders or pools.
Rainbow trout are known for the pinkish band along their sides; often they have black spots over silver flanks and tail. Brown trout have yellowish or light brown flanks with black and orange spots usually with lighter halos. The tail may or may not have some spots near the top. Brook trout are often called speckled trout because of their red spots with blue halos and other lighter colored spots. They are usually brownish to greenish in color with pale worm-like markings on their backs. Cutthroat trout have a reddish orange slash marks on their throats, hence their name. They are covered in black spots like rainbow trout but their sides are more yellow in color.
Stream trout do not live long, usually only eight to 10 years though brook trout have been known to live up to 15 years. Lake-dwelling trout grow much faster and reach a larger size then stream dwelling trout. As well, males tend to grow faster then females.
Lake trout are considered the ‘denizens of the deep’ mostly because they can reach a weight of about 30 to 40 pounds. They prefer water colder then any other gamefish, usually between 48 and 52ºF and cannot survive in water warmer then 65ºF. During the summer months, Lakers may descend to 100 feet in depth. Lakers also prefer infertile lakes because the fish cannot make use of the deep cold water if there is not enough oxygen. Because of this, lake trout are most often found in the cold sterile lakes of the Canadian Shield, the Great Lakes and in the deep mountain lakes in the west.
Lakers spawn in the fall when the water is still in their comfort zone. They deposit their eggs on rocky reefs that are usually either a few feet deep or up to 30 feet deep. These eggs usually fall into crevices to incubate so they stay protected until hatched. Lakers will spawn at the same reef every year.
Lake trout have extremely good vision but rely on their lateral line and sense of smell since little light reaches the depths they swim at. They feed mostly on aquatic insects, worms, crustaceans and sometimes other fish depending where they live. They usually feed only in the day, unless they inhabit shallow waters where they will feed in the dim lights. Lake trout also have an uncanny ability to be able to cover large depths to get food. For example a Laker will go from 80 feet deep to 50 feet easily. They are able to do this because they burp up air through a duct connecting their esophagus to their swim bladder.
Lake trout are often light green, gray, dark green, brown or black with a forked tail and light spots. The splake, which is a brook trout, lake trout hybrid often mistaken for cutthroat have light spots on the sides and light worm-like markings on their backs. Their tail is not as deeply forked and the tips are more rounded.
Lake trout grow slowly in the cold waters, a 10 pound trout may be up to 20 years old. Fortunately this fish live up to 40 years old. Because of their slow growth, regulations have been put in place so that all trophy trout are released back into the water. The largest Laker on record was 102 pounds, netted in Saskatchewan’s Lake Athabasca.