FWS Focus



The brook trout are members of the char family. They prefer small spring fed streams and ponds with sand or gravel bottom and vegetation. They spawn over gravel in either streams or lakes, with ground water percolation or in the spring fed areas in lakes. Young brook trout feed on plankton and progress to insects until they are adults.

Scientific Name

Salvelinus fontinalis
Common Name
brook trout
sea trout
coaster brook trout
aurora trout
FWS Category

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Identification Numbers



Characteristic category

Life Cycle


Brook trout spawn over gravel in either streams or lakes, with ground water percolation or in the spring fed areas in lakes. 

Pre-spawning courtship of the brook trout begins with the male attempting to drive a female toward suitable gravel habitat to facilitate spawning. A receptive female chooses a spot and digs a redd. While the female brook trout is digging, the male brook trout continues his courtship activity, darting alongside the female and quivering, swimming over and under her and rubbing the female with his fins. The male spends a great deal of time driving off other males during this process. After spawning, the female brook trout covers the eggs by sweeping small pebbles at the downstream edge of the redd upstream. Once the eggs are covered, the female moves upstream to the end of the redd and then begins digging a new redd. 

Brook trout normally mature in two years but may spawn after one year. These fish spawn between September and October. Brook trout fry will emerge sometime between February and April. Young brook trout normally seek shelter in submerged aquatic vegetation or shallow water near the shoreline. 

Characteristic category



Young brook trout feed on plankton and progress to insects until they are adults. Adult trout feed on a wide variety of organisms that includes just about anything drifting past them of the right size, primarily insects but could include other small invertebrates. Larger brook trout, like the coasters and the salters, will also feed on other fish or shrimp in addition to insects. The National Park Service reports that the stomach of one brook trout contained a sub-adult 5-lined skink. 

Characteristic category

Physical Characteristics

Size & Shape

Brook trout can grow to over 2 feet in length and weigh up to 15 pounds in the Great Lakes. In streams, they are typically 6 to 15 inches, and weigh 1 to 5 pounds.


In streams, brook trout can weigh 1 to 5 pounds. 

Color & Pattern

As spawning season approaches the colors of brook trout greatly intensify, especially in males whose flanks and belly become orange-red with a black stripe along each side.  



Brook trout are native to eastern North America, from the Great Lakes east to the Atlantic Ocean, and down the Appalachian Mountains as far south as Georgia, where they are found in many high elevation streams. There are three types:

  1. The Great Lakes or Coaster
  2. The sea-run or Salter
  3. The Eastern brook trout - the smallest of the 3, found from Maine to Georgia

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