THE COLOURFUL

Salvelinus fontinalis
fontinalis = belonging to springs
A member of the Salmonidae family, it is actually a Char, of the genus Salvelinus.
aka - brookie, Eastern brook trout, brook char.
speckled trout, coaster, aurora trout, square tail

cropped
picture by Dan Collins, Thunder Bay

Brookies were, historically, the only native stream dwelling 'trout' in the Great Lakes Watershed. However, because of the large geographical range and the many decades of indiscriminate stocking of public waters with farm raised brook trout (cultured, if you must), the term 'naturalized' (not native) stock would probably be more fitting for today's genetic classification of the brook trout.

Brookies that moves out of streams and into estuaries and bays of the Great Lakes,
searching for clear, cool, and well oxygenated water, are called "coasters." The largest brook trout on record, caught on Ontario's Nipigon River, weighed 14.5 pounds.

It is important to realize that the maximum size of the brook trout is quite variable and depends upon genetic composition and environmental conditions.  In Ontario, the more common size of an adult ranges from 10-16 inches in ponds and 5-12 inches in streams.

Brook trout spawn in the fall between mid October to early December, usually, in shallow areas near springs where there is clear cold spring water upwelling through  gravel.

Likewise, most successful trout ponds are fed by springs producing an abundance of cool water. Such ponds will continue to overflow in the summer months and, as such, are considered to be 'connecting waters to public waters' by the Ministry of Natural Resources and such ponds will require a 'permit to stock'.

The normal life span of brook trout in ponds is approximately five to six years and their normal feed would be animal protein, such as: insect larva, supplemented with crayfish, salamanders, tad poles. The brook trout is considered as being only moderately cannibalistic to smaller fish.

Hatchery raised trout become 'imprinted' with commercial trout feed (for the most part) and it is reasonable to suggested that hatchery raised fish should continued on the same diet once released into a pond.

Besides high creel limits and man's destruction of natural habitat, wild brookie numbers may be declining because it is an easy food source for the ever increasing numbers of Blue Herons that are forced into the same decreasing eco- space. The brook char are particularly vulnerable to fish eating birds while spawning in the fall.
It must also be remembered that brook trout are not being stocked by the Ministry as they had been previously. In fact, the Ministry has introduced and continues to restock exotic species such as the rainbow and the brown trout that displace the brook trout in its natural environmental niche. To add further to the demise of this fish, the Ministry continues its policy of restocking the Great Lakes with the predatory salmon. It is also unfortunate that both the introduced salmon and the brown trout out-compete the smaller brook trout for much of the best spawning areas (redds) in the fall of the year.

Brookies are easily identified, even at a considerable distance, because of its striking white fin edges which clearly separate it from other trout.

Compared to rainbow and brown, the brook trout (char) has much smaller scales. They also require the best and coldest in water conditions. The aquatic plant, water cress, is often an indicator of a suitable habitat for brook trout.

Note the blue 'halos' around the red dot pigmentation on a dark background both below and above the clearly visible lateral line. Also, note how small the scales are.

specksides 
picture by Dan Collins, Thunder Bay




Research sites
Species Summary for Salvelinus fontinalis, Brook trout
The natural history of the northwoods

Hedley's Trout Farm
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page updated, May 28, 2007