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Home FAQ's About Trout Brook Trout vs. Speckled Trout

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.