Fisheries, Midwest Region
Conserving the Nature of America
Coaster Brook Trout

The coaster brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) is a potamodromous form of brook trout that spends part of its life in the nearshore waters of the upper Great Lakes. Once abundant and widespread, they are big, colorful, highly sought after sport fish willing to hit flies, live and artificial baits. Historically, most of Lake Superior's 3,000 miles of shoreline and tributary streams supported fishable coaster populations. In the mid-1800s, the fishery attracted anglers from around the world, and unregulated fishing decimated coaster stocks. In-stream habitat loss due to wide-scale logging further reduced numbers and prevented stocks from recovering. By the mid-1900s only a handful of tiny remnant stocks still existed.

Service biologists worked with staff from resource agencies in Canada and the U.S. to develop a Brook Trout Rehabilitation Plan (pdf, 233 Kb) for Lake Superior.The plan calls for protection and rehabilitation of coasters in as many of their original habitats as possible. Resource agencies gather information from the remaining wild populations. To bring back the "little salmon of the springs" three approaches are being used: protection from overharvesting of remaining stocks; rehabilitation of spring-fed areas of streams; and, redesign or removal of dams blocking access to those streams.

The Service has surveyed Isle Royale National Park coaster populations in Lake Superior since 1993. Much of the work has been conducted in association with egg collection from coaster populations in Tobin Harbor and Siskiwit Bay. Eggs are collected and brought to National Fish Hatcheries to serve as a "safety deposit box" and preserve the genetic material of remnant populations and for development of broodstocks. Service employees collected wild coaster eggs on Isle Royale National Park to develop captive spawning populations capable of restoring this species to Lake Superior waters.

In 2001, approximately 205,000 coasters were stocked in streams in Michigan at Isle Royale and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore as well as on the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community. Biologists are also coordinating with the U.S.D.A. Forest Service and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to develop a sampling and analysis plan for coaster brook trout in northern Lake Michigan.