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A fisherman removes a medium sized fish with brown spots along its sides from a net
Information icon Brown trout. Photo by the Chesapeake Bay Program, CC BY-NC 2.0.

Brown trout

Salmo trutta

  • Taxon: Freshwater fish
  • Range: Native to Europe; introduced to North America in 1883.
  • Status: Not listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)

Brown trout are a coldwater species like most fish of the salmon family. The first brown trout eggs were imported to the U.S. from Germany in 1883. In 1884, the release of 4,900 brown-trout fry into Michigan’s Baldwin River represented the first time the species swam free in U.S. waters. This species has been stocked as a popular sport fish in this country ever since. Brown trout are considered more nocturnal and more difficult to catch, presenting a particular challenge to most fly fishermen.

Appearance

Brown trout vary greatly in appearance, but are generally olive green to brown on top, shading to a creamy, golden yellow on the sides and an off- white along the belly. Most brown trout are covered with black spots along their sides, back, and dorsal fin with each spot surrounded by a light halo. Frequently, the spots near the lateral line are red. Unlike other trout species, brown trout tails have few if any spots.

Habitat

Brown trout occupy a range of aquatic systems and habitats from coldwater mountain streams to larger rivers, ponds and lakes.

Diet

Brown trout feed on several animal prey species, aquatic invertebrates being the most abundant prey items. However, brown trout also feed on other prey such as land-based invertebrates (e.g. Hymenoptera) or other fish. Moreover, in brown trout, as in many other fish species, a change in the diet composition normally occurs during the life of the fish, and piscivorous behaviour is most frequent in large brown trout.

Historic range

The native range of brown trout includes Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa. However, brown trout have been introduced all over the world.

Current range

The brown trout has been stocked in 45 states in the U.S. There is a self sustaining population in 34 of the 50 states.

A map of brown trout range across large portions of the Northeastern, Midwest and Western United States following major rivers
Range map for brown trout. Map by USGS.

Conservation challenges

Due to a combination of size and diet, brown trout often displace native brook trout where the two species overlap. They tend to dominate the best available habitat by either forcing brook trout from preferred habitat and, to an extent, by preying directly upon brook trout.

Federal Register notices

The following Federal Register documents were automatically gathered by searching the Federal Register Official API with this species’ scientific name ordered by relevance. You can conduct your own search on the Federal Register website.

  • We're sorry but an error occurred. Visit the Federal Register to conduct your own search.

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