Return to the Previous Page

 Trout Identification

Brook Trout

Compared to most other trout, brook trout (or brookies) normally don�t grow very big. Under perfect conditions, such as those found in Northern Quebec and Labrador, brook trout can grow to more than 10 pounds. Their average size, however, is much smaller. For the most part Brook Trout caught from average size streams will be between 6 and 8 inches, with fish over 12 inches being prized. In most lakes and rivers a 2 pound Brook Trout is a real beauty. This makes them a great candidate for Ultralight fishing.

Brook Trout are easily identified by their amazing colors. They have yellowish, worm like markings running along their back, contrasted against a dark greenish background. Along the flanks of the Brook Trout are many pale yellow spots and usually a few red spots surrounded by blue halos. During the fall spawning period (when they are quite susceptible to live bait fishing), the lower flanks of the males turn brilliant red-orange. All in all, it�s hard to mistake a Brook Trout.

Lake Trout

The Lake Trout is the largest member of the char family and goes by various regional names including, laker, mackinaw, gray trout, lake char, and others. Lake Trout live in cold deep lakes where the water temperature is at or below 55 degrees for most of the year. Or these temperatures are at least accessible to the Lake Trout. During the summer months Lake Trout will head to water as deep as 100 or even 200 feet to find suitable water temperatures. This is exactly what happens in Flathead Lake.

In some of the big lakes of the far north, lake trout can reach enormous sizes. In fact, in some remote lakes of the far north, Lake Trout from 70-80 pounds have been landed. This however is not the norm. Lake trout from 2-5 pounds are much more normal, with a 10 pounder being a nice fish. In Flathead Lake, for example, 20-25 found Lake Trout are fairly common. As the name suggests, these trout are found in lakes, so river fishing is not a possibility.

Cutthroat Trout

The Cutthroat Trout is found in four more or less distinct areas correlating to the four major cutthroat subspecies. They are: 1) The coastal cutthroat, found along the pacific coast to about 100 miles inland from the northern tip of California to southern Alaska. 2) The west slope cutthroat, which is what we find in the Swan River in Northwest Montana. 3) The Lohatan cutthroat found in central and north central Nevada. 4) The Yellowstone cutthroat found in the interior Rocky Mountains from Montana to New Mexico, which we also find in parts of the Swan River.

Although there are variations among the subspecies, cutthroats usually have greenish backs with yellow or silver sides showing many dark grey or black spots, and a slash of red on the lower jaw, which inspired its name. Where cutthroat�s cross-breed with Rainbow Trout, the Rainbow�s markings dominate, making hybrids difficult to distinguish from pure rainbows.

Cutthroats are generally considered the most easily duped trout, which we have found to be true. They are also the worst fighters in our opinion. The average stream or river cutthroat will be between 9 and eleven inches, and one over sixteen is a beauty. We catch them this size with regularity while trout fishing on the Swan River. The real charm of catching a pure, native, cutthroat lies not in its size, but in both its beauty and relative rarity.

Rainbow Trout

If you�ve caught a trout that jumped clear of the water during the fight and has a reddish stripe running along its sides from the gill cover to the tail, it�s a Rainbow Trout. Rainbows are hardy, adaptable fish that can and do live in a variety of habitats. They are thus popular among hatchery mangers and are frequently stocked. They are also popular among anglers because of their tendency to jump clear of the water two or three times before being brought to hand.

Some Rainbow Trout are migratory, spending much of their lives in the ocean or one of the Great Lakes and moving into freshwater streams to spawn. These rainbows are called steelhead, and although taxonomists consider them identical to other rainbows, anglers do not. From this point, �rainbow trout� as we are referring to them, refers to resident, or non-migratory fish. The average stream-dwelling rainbow makes its living drift feeding on aquatic insects, but will also eat terrestrial insects, worms, crustaceans, and small baitfish. We at JRWfishing.com have found that live bait works quite well on rainbows, especially worm fishing for them.

As with other trout, what might be considered a trophy rainbow is highly dependant on habitat and the type of equipment one uses. We at JRWfishing.com are experts at ultra light fishing and therefore our trophy may be a bit different than an angler who uses an eight foot rod spooled with 8lb. test monofilament. In most streams where rainbow trout are caught, a fish over 18 inches is very big indeed, but in some extremely fertile streams, a rainbow might grow as big as 8 pounds. The Swan River is quite fertile, because 18 inch rainbows are a fairly common occurrence. That being said, most rainbows caught in streams are between 8 and 12 inches and those caught in lakes typically weigh between 2 and 4 pounds.

Brown Trout

For centuries before the discovery of rainbows, cutthroats, and brook trout, when people went �trout� fishing, they went brown trout fishing. Native to Europe, browns were first formally stocked in the United States in 1884 in Michigan. Today they can be caught in the Northeast, The Appalachians, the upper Midwest, and the mountainous regions of the west.

Most average sized Brown Trout make their living eating aquatic insects, but a significant number of browns over 12 to 13 inches turn to larger prey such as sculpins, dace, crawfish, and even their own fry. Yet for the wide variety of foods the brown trout will eat, it can be very difficult to catch. For one, many larger browns are primarily nocturnal feeders, and, for two, during prolific insect hatches, browns cam be extremely selective about what they�ll eat. Perhaps ironically, it is in part the Brown Trout�s ability to frustrate fishermen that makes it such a popular game fish. A big Brown Trout can really tear up your fishing gear.

JRW Fishing.com ~ Quality products for fishermen from Northwest Montana
432 East Idaho, Suite #C251 Kalispell, MT 59901
email: tkugler@jrwfishing.com