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Home Trout Trout species of North Carolina

 

Trout Species of North Carolina

 

 Brown Trout


 

 

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      The mountains of North Carolina abound with streams that contain both wild and stocked populations of Brook, Speckled, Brown, and Rainbow trout. Thus, it is possible for the lucky fly fisherman to achieve an "Appalachian Grand Slam" by landing a Brook or Speckled trout, a Brown trout, and a Rainbow trout all in the same day! However, it is important to be aware that although a particular stream may contain all four species of trout, each species has a different preference for suitable habitat and thus all four species will not be found in the same places within the same stream. Thus, gaining an intimate understanding of each species' habitat preferences and feeding habits is essential to a fly fisherman's success.

 

 

 

Brook & Speckled Trout -

Picture of a Brook Trout

Salvelinus fontinalis

 
Average length: 6 in. to 8 in.
Average weight: 1/4 to 1/2 lbs.

 

The Brook and Speckled Trout are widely regarded as North America's most beautiful native freshwater fish species. However, local fly fisherman here in N.C. have been carrying on a frienldly argument for years now about whether the native Brook Trout and the native Spekled Trout are of the same species. Thus, in light of this controversy, a study conducted by National Park Service Biologist Robert E. Lennon in 1967 showed that the morphology characteristics of southern Speckled trout is different from those of northern Brook Trout. Consequently, his studies led him to suggest that the differences between the northern and southern populations was great enough that they should be considered a separate species or at the very least, a sub-species. In fact, his studies showed that southern Speckled Trout were usually smaller and had more speckles which were a brighter color of red than northern Brook Trout. In addition, the eyes, snout, and lower jaws of the southern Speckled Trout were larger than their northern counterparts and their pectoral fins were longer as well.

 

Description:

In North Carolina, Brook and Speckled Trout are generally quite small, with mature adults ranging in size from an average size of 8 inches to a trophy size of 12 inches. In addition, they are handsomely colored with the back and upper sides of the body typically olive-green with mottled, dark green, wavy markings (camouflage) that extends onto the dorsal and caudal fins while the lower sides are lighter, with yellow spots interspersed with a few spots of bright red surrounded by blue.


Identification:

The lower fins are orange with a narrow, black, band next to a white band that borders the forward edge (the trademark of a brook trout). In addition, spawning fish often acquire a heightened brilliance and display a bright, red-orange, color on the the belly and lower fins. However, please note that the color of a fish can vary from one area to another, depending upon its habitat.

 

Preferred Habitat:

Brook and Speckled Trout are most abundant in isolated, high-altitude, head-water streams and creeks where the water is free of pollution and rich in oxygen. Also, Brook trout are inherently cold-water fish and can perform well within a temperature range of 40° to 68°Fahrenheit. However, Brook and Speckled Trout have been shown to feed at temperatures as low as 34°, and the lethal temperature limit of both species seems to be around 30°. In addition, both Brook and Speckled Trout prefer streams with stable water flows, silt-free gravel for spawning, and an abundance of deep pools and riffles with sufficient in-stream cover, such as logs, boulders and undercut banks. In North Carolina, Brook and Speckled Trout spawning begins in September and continues through November. Once laid, the fertilized eggs are covered with gravel and remain in the Redd until they hatch in the early spring (usually March).

 

Food:

Variety of aquatic and terrestrial insects, earthworms, snails, crayfish, salamanders, frogs and occasionally small fish. Artificial flies in the 12-18 size.

 

Spawning:

Occurs in fall, generally September through November. Female constructs a nest (called a Redd) in small, loose, gravel with her tail. However, once the eggs are laid, the adults do not guard the nest. Also, the numbers of eggs vary from 100 to 5,000 depending upon the size of female and incubation periods vary depending upon water temperature but eggs hatch in 50 days at 50 F . 

 

Life Expectancy:

Generally short-lived, seldom longer than 4 years in the wild. Maximum 8 years.


 

 

Brown Trout -

 

Brown-Trout-Chapter-6-tran 

 

 

 

Salmo Trutta


Average size: 8 in. to 14 in.
Average length: 2 to 4 lbs.


For centuries before the discovery of rainbows, cutthroats, and brookies, when people went "trout" fishing, they went brown trout fishing. Native to Europe, browns were first formally stocked in the United States on April 11, 1884 in Michigan's Pere Marquette River. Today they can be caught in the Northeast, the Appalachians, the Upper Midwest, and the mountainous regions of the West.


Description:

In North Carolina, their sides are silvery or brownish  yellow and bellies are white or yellowish; dark spots, sometimes encircled by a pale halo, are plentiful on the back and sides; spotting also can be found on the head and the fins along the back; rusty-red spots also occur on the sides; the small adipose (or fatty) fin in front of the tail has a reddish hue; They closely resemble Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout, but salmon have no red coloration on the adipose fin and rainbow trout have lines of black spots on the tail. Young brown trout (parr) have 9-14 dark narrow parr marks along the sides and some red spotting along the lateral line.


Identification:

In North Carolina, their sides are silvery or brownish yellow and bellies are white or yellowish; dark spots, sometimes encircled by a pale halo, are plentiful on the back and sides; spotting also can be found on the head and the fins along the back; rusty-red spots also occur on the sides; the small adipose (or fatty) fin in front of the tail has a reddish hue; They closely resemble Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout, but salmon have no red coloration on the adipose fin and rainbow trout have lines of black spots on the tail. Young brown trout (parr) have 9-14 dark narrow Parr marks along the sides and some red spotting along the lateral line.


Preferred Habitat:

Brown trout have a distinct preference for the slower pockets and sections of streams where the water is crystal clear and the current is moderate but offers easy access to food. However, they also require abundant cover and will seldom venture out hiding during period of bright sunlight. In addition, since they require slightly less oxygen than either Brooks or Rainbows, they can tolerate slightly higher water temperatures. In fact, they are commonly found in the lower sections of rivers and streams that are well beyond the tolerance range of either Brook or Rainbow trout.


Food:

Brown trout consume a variety of aquatic and terrestrial insects as well as earthworms, snails, crayfish, salamanders, frogs, sculpins, dace, and even their own fry. All trout are opportunistic feeders, which means if a meal, such as a worm or a minnow or what is perceived by the trout as a meal, is usually eaten. Many larger browns are primarily nocturnal feeders, and during prolific insect hatches, browns can be extremely selective about what they'll eat.


Spawning:

Brown trout spawn in the fall and early winter (October to February) at the same time Brook (speckled) trout spawn, or later. The female uses her body to excavate a nest (redd) in the gravel. She and the male may spawn there several times. A 5 lb female produces about 3400 golden colored eggs that are 4 to 5 mm in diameter. Females cover their eggs with gravel after spawning and the adults return downstream. The eggs develop slowly over the winter, hatching in the spring. A good flow of clean, well-oxygenated water is necessary for successful egg development. After hatching, the young fish (called alevins) remain buried in the gravel and take nourishment from their large yolk-sacs. By the time the yolk-sacs are absorbed, water temperatures have warmed to 44 degrees to 53 degrees. The fish (now known as fry) emerge from the gravel and begin taking natural food. They mature in their third to fifth year and many become repeat spawners.


 Life Expectancy:

Seldom longer than 6-8 years in the wild.

 

 

 

Rainbow Trout -

 

nc-rainbow-trout-chapter-6-trans

 

 

 

Oncorhynchus Mykiss

 
Average size: 10 in. to 16 in.
Average weight: 2 to 6 lbs.


Rainbow trout are native to the Pacific Ocean and fresh waters of western North America. They naturally range from Mexico to Alaska and inland to the Rockies. However, they have been widely introduced throughout the world, and now occur across central North America to the eastern coast. Rainbow trout were first introduced to Atlantic Canada in the late 1800s.


Description:

In North Carolina, the adults in fresh water colors vary from becoming silvery on the sides to becoming yellow on the sides and brown on the back. Many small black spots cover the head, back, sides and fins, and spots on the tail are in obvious rows. The adipose fin (small fin in front of the tail on the back) has a black border. Mature fish have a distinctive rosy stripe along the side that extends from the gill cover to the caudal fin. Young rainbow trout (parr): have 5 to 13 well-spaced dark part marks on the sides and show less spotting on the body than adults.


Identification:

In North Carolina, adult colors vary from becoming silvery on the sides to becoming yellow on the sides and brown on the back. Many small black spots cover the head, back, sides and fins, and spots on the tail are in obvious rows. The adipose fin (small fin in front of the tail on the back) has a black border. Mature fish have a distinctive rosy stripe along the side that extends from the gill cover to the caudal fin. Young rainbow trout (parr): have 5 to 13 well-spaced dark part marks on the sides and show less spotting on the body than adults.


Preferred Habitat:

Rainbow trout seem to have a distinct preference for fast, frothy, highly aerated, water.


Food:

Rainbow trout take a wide variety of foods, but in freshwater they eat mainly insects, crustaceans, snails, leeches, and other fish if available. All trout are opportunistic feeders, which means if a meal, such as a worm or a minnow--or what is perceived by the trout as a meal.


Spawning:

They prefer water temperatures of 53 degrees to 64 and do well in clear, cool, deep lakes or cool, clear, moderately-flowing streams with abundant cover and deep pools. They spawn in the spring (usually from March to May) in small tributaries of rivers, or in inlets or outlets of lakes. Spawning can also take place in late fall or early winter.


Life Expectancy:

Seldom longer than 6-8 years in the wild.

 

 

 

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