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Fishes of Yosemite National Park (1941, 1948) by Willis A. Evans and Orthello L. Wallis


EASTERN BROOK TROUT

Salvelinus fontinalis (Mitchill)

The eastern brook trout is one of the most popular game fishes found in Yosemite, especially in the high country. Together with related species such as the Dolly Varden and lake trout, they are often called charrs. All charrs are characterized by the lack of black spots and, technically, by the boat shaped structure of the tooth bearing bones in the roof of the mouth. The scales are small and fine compared to other trout such as the rainbow and brown trout.

The mottled olive marking, with a dark background, distributed over the back as well as dorsal and tail fins is a distinctive feature. The light spots on the sides are cream colored or red. Often the red spots are encircled with a blue halo. The lower fins are reddish orange, margined with bands of black and white. It is especially colorful during the spawn ing season when the underside of the male becomes brilliantly red or orange. The combination of the mottled olive markings on the back and the light spots on a dark background will distinguish the brook trout from all other fishes found in these waters.

The eastern brook trout, as the name implies, is native to the eastern part of our country, originally extending as far west as the Great Lakes region and Iowa. However, with modern methods of transporting eggs and fry it has been widely distributed. Consequently they have now been introduced successfully throughout the Western mountain areas. Often called “speckled trout” in the East, it provides excellent fly fishing as it tends to be more of a surface feeder.

Its beauty rivals that of its environment, which is among the swifter, colder mountain streams or gem-like alpine lakes. Eastern brooks are commonly found in Yosemite above 7,000 feet and seldom do well at lower elevations or in warmer waters. It was widely planted in the early days throughout the headwaters of the Merced and Tuolumne Rivers and can still be caught there in considerable numbers. In some lakes especially, they seem to do very well; but in most respects never become as completely at home as native rainbow trout in the same waters.

Size will vary greatly depending upon the environment into which it is placed. In small streams it will survive and mature at a length of six inches and in such conditions will not often exceed eight inches in length. In lakes with suitable and abundant food supply, it will grow to lengths up to 20 inches and will weigh several pounds.

In spawning requirements it is highly adaptable, often spawning in lakes without suitable inlets or outlets. In some places this characteristic will cause the trout to over-reproduce resulting in a population consisting of small fish. This is especially true in small streams. In most places where it has become established, natural reproduction is sufficient to keep the body of water stocked with brook trout without supplementary plantings. In fact, supplementary plantings are disadvantageous because they may cause undue competition among the fish for the small amount of available food found in the cold alpine lakes and streams.

Like the brown trout, the eastern trout spawns in the fall, with the lowering of the water temperatures. Since at this time of year the streams are at this lowest, the spawning activities of the brook trout in local waters are often hindered.

Though not a spectacular fighter, the brook trout furnishes considerable sport for the high country angler. It is a fish which is rather easy to catch, taking either wet or dry flies, salmon eggs or worms. Unlike the rainbow trout, it will strike several times for a fly if it misses the first time. Once hooked, the brook doggedly tug at the end of the leader.

EASTERN BROOK TROUT—Courtesy California Fish and Game
[click to enlarge]
EASTERN BROOK TROUT—Courtesy California Fish and Game


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