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Home FAQ's About Trout

Frequently asked questions about fish species

How Does Water Temperature and Barometric Pressure Affect Trout Feeding Behavior?

By Doc Trout


     Because Trout are a cold blooded fish species, their metabolic rate is controlled by the ambient water temperature which is in turn affected by the ambient air temperature and the amount of direct sunlight reaching the bottom of the stream. Thus, trout are dormant in cold water but become more active as the Sun warms both the surrounding air as well as the streambed. In fact, in water temperatures below 45 degrees, Trout enter a state of torpor similar ti hibernation in which their metabolic rate drastically slows and thus, they very seldom feed in waters with an ambient water temperature below 45 degrees. However, as the water warms, a Trout's metabolic rate also starts to increase and thus, not only do they become more active, they are also more inclined to feed and this trend continues until the water reaches and ambient temperature of sixty-five degrees; at which point their metabolic rate reaches the point where it requires more dissolved oxygen in the water than the water is capable of holding. Therefore, Trout generally cease to feed in water temperatures above sixty-five degrees and start to suffocated in water temperatures of seventy degrees and above.


     In addition, Trout also have an internal organ called a Swim Bladder which they can inflate or deflate at will in order to suspend themselves in the water column. Thus, because the Earth's atmosphere has mass and thus, it also has gravity, it exerts pressure on the surface of any exposed body of water which in turn either increases or decreases the water pressure. Therefore, Trout feel even minute changes in barometric pressure as and increase or decrease in pressure on their swim bladders. Thus, Trout tend to stop feeding when the barometric pressure reaches either the low extreme (28.5 inHg) or the high extreme (30.5 inHg). Also, they seem to have a distinct preference for feeding avidly when the barometric pressure is falling and are distinctly less inclined to feed when the barometric pressure is rising. So, expect normal fishing when the weather is stable, distinctly better fishing when the skies are becoming cloudy, slightly worse fishing when the skies are clearing, and the worst fishing when the skies are sunny and the barometric pressure is high.


What is the Life Cycle of a Trout?

By Doc Trout


     Most avid trout anglers are aware that both Brook Trout and Brown Trout spawn in the late Fall while Rainbow Trout spawn in the early spring. However, not all avid trout anglers are aware of the different stages of growth

a trout goes through before reaching maturity. Thus, I have listed the entire life cycle of a Trout below:



     Trout eggs are small, round, and are red, orange, or white in color and have a rubbery texture. In addition, they have black eyes and a central line that indicate healthy development and the hatching of the egg is dependent upon the water temperature.


     Once a Trout has hatched  from its egg, it becomes an Alevin and it has a large yolk sac that it uses for food while it develops further. However, the yolk sack makes swimming difficult, an Alevin stays near the Redd until it “buttons up.” However, as each Alevin slowly begins to display adult trout characteristics, the yolk sac disappears and the new trout gains mobility.


     "Buttoning-up" occurs after the Alevin absorb their yolk sac and begin to feed on aquatic insects. Thus, at this stage, an Alevin become a Fry and begins to congregate in small schools with other Fry near the shallows where they are less vulnerable to predation from larger trout.

Fingerlings & Parr-

     When a Fry reaches a size ranging from 2-5 inches, it becomes a Fingerling. Then, when it finally develops its distinctively dark markings, it is called a Parr.


     Once a Parr has gained enough size and has developed the distinctive markings of an adult, then it is called a Juvenile.  Thus, a Juvenile a Trout resembles an adult Trout in every way except that it is not yet old or large enough to spawn.


      In the adult stage, both male and female Trout are ready to spawn. During this stage, Trout display vibrant colors during the spawning period and the female uses her tail to scoop out  a shallow nest in the streambed called a Redd in which she lays her eggs. Thus, once the egg is fertilized by the male, the life cycle of the Trout returns to the egg stage. 


What is the Difference Between a Speckled Freshwater Trout and  a Speckled Sea Trout?

By Doc Trout

     The other day, someone asked me what the difference is between a Speckled Freshwater Trout and a Speckled or Spotted Seat Trout? The short answer to this question is that a Speckled Freshwater Trout is a subspecies of the Char genus that is endemic to the southern Appalachian Mountains whereas, the Speckled or Spotted Sea Trout is a member of the Drum family. Therefore, a Speckled Sea Trout is not actually a Trout at all even though its name implies that it is.


Speckled Freshwater Trout - Salmoninae Salvelinus fontinali (Char):

     The Speckled Trout, Salvenus fontinalis, is a species of fish in the Salmon family of order Salmoninformes. Also, in many parts of its range, the Speckled Trout is known locally as a "Speck" or a "Squaretail" due to some slight anatomical differences from other Salmoninformes. In addition, there is a potamodromous population of these Char in Lake Superior that is known locally as Coaster Trout or simply as Coasters. Therefore, although a Speckled Trout is commonly called a Trout, it is not actually a trout but is a Char (Salvelinus fontinali) instead; along with Lake Trout, Bull Trout, Dolly Varden Trout, and the Arctic Char. Thus a Char differs from a Trout in that they are members of the same family but are from a different genus and species.


Speckled or Spotted Sea Trout - Sciaendiae Cynoscion nebulosus (Drum):

     The Spotted Sea Trout, which is also known as a Speckled Sea Trout or Spotted Weakfish (Cynoscion nebulosus) is a common estuary fish found along the coast of the southern United States. While these fish are most often caught on shallow, grassy flats, they tend reside in almost any type of inshore water ranging from the surf zone to far up coastal rivers; where they often congregate for shelter during the colder months of the year. But, unlike the Speckled Freshwater Trout, the Spotted Sea Trout is not a member of the Salmon family (Salmonindae) and instead, it is a member of the of the Drum family (Sciaenidae). In addition, Speckled Sea Trout differ anatomically in that they have prominent canine teeth and are dark black in color with grey or silvery sides that are marked with scattered, black, oscillating, spots of varying sizes. In addition, plain black spots are also displayed on the dorsal and tail fins and, in stained water, this fish's background may take on a golden hue. Thus, this fish's shape and coloration often reminds anglers of a Brown Trout (Salmo trutta) and hence the name Sea Trout.


What is the Difference Between a Trout and a Char?

By Doc Trout


     Trout is the name for a number of species of freshwater and saltwater fish belonging to the Salmoninae subfamily of the family Salmonidae. However, some fish, such as the Spotted Sea Trout, are not actually part of the Salmonidae family even though they are called Trout. On the other hand, Salmon do belong to the same family as Trout (Salmonidae) even though they are not called Trout. In fact, the name Trout is commonly used for some species of fish in three of the seven genera in the subfamily Salmoninae and they are: Salmo, Atlantic genus; Oncorhynchus, Pacific genus; and Salvelinus, Char or Charr genus. Therefore, although Rainbow Trout (Salmoninae Oncorhynchus mykiss), Brown Trout (Salmoninae Salmo Trutta), and Brook Trout (Salmoninae Salvelinus fontinali) are all members of the Salmoninae subfamily, they each belong to a different genus and species. Consequently, although all three fish are categorized as Salmon, Brown Trout are members of the Atlantic Salmon genus, whereas Rainbow Trout are members of the Pacific Salmon genus, and Brook Trout are members of the Char genus.


Brown Trout, Salmoninae Salmo trutta (Trout) -

     The Brown Trout (Salmo trutta morpha fario and Salmo trutta morpha lacustris) and the Atlantic Salmon (Salmo trutta morpha trutta) are all members of the same genus but each are members of  different species. They are distinguished chiefly by the fact that the Brown Trout is largely a freshwater fish, while the Atlantic Salmon (also called an Atlantic Steelhead) demonstrates anadromous reproduction;, migrating to the oceans for much of its life and then returning to freshwater to spawn. In addition, Atlantic Salmon in the UK and Ireland are know by many regional names such as "Wewin" in Wales, "Finnock" in Scotland, "Peal" in western England,  Mort in north west England, and "White Trout" in Ireland. In addition, the lacustrine morph of  Brown Trout is usually potamodromous, meaning that it migrates from lakes (instead of the ocean) into rivers or streams to spawn although, there is some evidence of populations that spawn on the wind-swept shorelines of large lakes. On the other hand, Salmo trutta morpha fario typically form resident populations in alpine streams but sometimes use large rivers as well. In addition, there is some evidence that anadromous and non-anadromous morphs coexisting in the same river can be genetically identical. Consequently, the name "Brown Trout" is often applied indiscriminately to the various morphs even though they are of a different species.


Rainbow Trout - Salmoinae Oncorhynchus mykiss (Trout) -

      The Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) is a species of Salmonid native to tributaries of the Pacific Ocean in both Asia and North America. Therefore, the Pacific Steelhead is a sea run Rainbow Trout (anadromous) that usually returns to a freshwater stream to spawn after 2 to 3 years at sea. In fact, Rainbow Trout are so popular that they have been introduced for food or sport to at least 45 countries on every continent except Antarctica. However, in some locations such as Europe, Australia, and South America, Rainbow Trout have had a detrimental effect on the native upland species by either consuming them as food or competing with them for the other available food sources. In addition, they have  been known to transmit diseases such as Whirling Disease to native fish which have no natural immunity via evolution and they have been known to hybridize with closely related species and subspecies.


Brook Trout, Salmoninae Salvelinus fontinali (Char) -

     The Brook Trout, Salvelinus fontinali, (which is sometimes called the Eastern Brook Trout) is a member of the Salmon family of the order Salmoniformes. But, since it is of a different genus and species from other Salmoniformes, it is not actually a Trout but is instead a Char or Charr.  In addition, there is another Char called a Speckled Trout that, while closely related to the Brook Trout, displays some slight anatomical differences which lead some biologist to believe that it is actually a different species altogether or at least a sub-species of Brook Trout. Hence, both Brook Trout and Speckled Trout are sometimes called "Square Tails" in some parts of the country. In addition, there is a potamodromous population of Brook Trout living in Lake Superior that are known locally as Coaster Trout or simply as Coasters. In addition, there are two other species of Salmoniformes that are commonly called Trout but which are actually Chars and they are the Lake Trout and the Dolly Varden Trout. Thus, while a Char is similar to a Trout in that they are both Salmoniformes, Chars differ from Trout in that they are members of a different genus and species.


     Therefore, when asked what the difference is between a Trout and a Char, the short answer is that while both fish are Salmon, Brown Trout and Rainbow Trout are members of the Atlantic and Pacific Salmon genera whereas Brook Trout are members of the Char genus and thus Brook Trout are not actually Trout at all.


What is the Difference Between a Brook Trout and a Speckled Trout?

By Doc Trout


     The main difference between a Brook Trout and a Speckled Trout is that the Brook Trout is a native northern species while the Speckled Trout is a native southern species. Beginning in 1967, a National Park Service Biologist by the name of Robert E. Lennon began a study to catalog the characteristics of the northern Brook Trout and to compare them to that of southern Speckled Trout. Consequently, his studies led him to believe that their differences were so great that Speckled Trout should be considered separate species from, or at least a sub-species of, Brook Trout. Part of the reason for this is that native southern Speckled Trout are usually somewhat smaller than Brook Trout and they display more speckles which are of a brighter color of red than that found on Brook Trout. In addition, Speckled Trout consistently display larger eyes, a larger snout and lower jaw, and a larger pectoral fin than that of Brook Trout. Thus, Lennon felt that according to the Toxicology classification rules of his day, this was enough evidence to classify Speckled Trout as a separate species.


     Now, you may be wondering, if the Brook Trout is a native northern species, then how did they come to inhabit southern trout streams and how did they replace the native Speckled Trout in most of our Southern trout streams? Well, the answer to that question is Man's insatiable avarice and the way that people used to view natural resources in this country. In the late 1800's, most Americans viewed the land as something to be conquered and the natural resources it held to be endless. Thus, the people of the time who had both wealth and positions of power in our society, used them both to harvest the country's natural resources without regard to the well being of future generations. Consequently, many of the older mountain people living here in the Appalachians clearly recall the overzealous and unregulated logging operations that took place here in the South that completely denuded most of their beloved mountains. Consequently, this widespread clear-cutting of the streamside foliage removed the shade necessary to keep our native trout streams cool enough during the summer months for Trout to be able survive and thus, many southern states were forced to build hatcheries and establish stocking programs in order to create sustainable populations of Trout. However, many attempts to rear native Speckled Trout in hatcheries proved to be impossible because the wild Speckled Trout were highly susceptible to diseases when they were confined together in close quarters and held in a concrete pen. Therefore, in self-defense, many frustrated hatchery managers started importing northern Brook Trout from hatcheries in states such as Michigan, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania. However, because these northern Brook Trout had been raised in hatcheries over many generations, the Trout that southern hatchery managers were importing had become specifically adapted to the hatchery environment. So, although southern hatchery managers had much greater success at raising the new species, the new Brook Trout were not physically the same as our endemic native Speckled Trout. Thus, when these newly imported Brook Trout were introduced to our local, southern Appalachian, trout streams, they not only differed in appearance from our native Speckled Trout, they often lacked the instincts that wild trout use to survive and thus they were far easier for anglers to catch. In addition, once the hatchery supported Brook Trout were released into our local waters, the ones that did managed to survive began to interbreed with our native Speckled Trout; thus creating a hybrid species. As a result, the only southern Appalachian trout streams left today with endemic populations of wild Speckled Trout are streams that have impassable barriers such as tall waterfalls.