Brook Trout - Salvelinus fontinalis
Also known as: Aurora Trout, Breac, Brook Char, Brookie, Coaster, Eastern Brook Trout, Mountain Trout, Mud Trout, Native Trout
The brook trout is native to northeastern North America, primarily from the Great Lakes north to the Hudson Bay and east to the Atlantic and Arctic coasts. It occurs in the Appalachians southeast of the Great Lakes to the northeastern corner of Georgia. It inhabits clear, cold mountain streams and lakes, preferring water temperatures of approximately 57-61 degrees Fahrenheit (13-16 degrees Celsius). It is rarely found in waters exceeding 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius), and temperatures of 77-80 degrees Fahrenheit (25-27 degrees Celsius) are fatal. It has been introduced into areas of high elevation throughout most of western North America. Today it can be found in scattered locations from the central portions of the lower Canadian Provinces south almost to Mexico (west of Texas). It has also been introduced to other continents, notably South America (Argentina), and Europe.
It is a typical char of the Salvelinus genus. The lower fins (pectoral, pelvic and anal) of chars have a milk-white leading edge, distinguishing them from trouts. It is often identified by the light green to cream-colored wavy lines (vermiculations) on the back and top of the head, and by the pale yellowish or greenish spots and the red spots with blue halos (ocelli) on the sides. The dorsal fin has heavy black vermiculations. The basic color of the back is olive-green to dark brown, lightening to white on the belly. At spawning time, the lower flanks and the belly of the males turn bright orange-red with a black edge on the lower sides. Sea-run specimens turn silvery, often with a light iridescent purplish sheen, and with only the red spots showing. The tail is squarish or only very slightly indented. All the fins are soft rayed, without spines.
As a food and game fish it rates extremely high. The flesh is white to bright orange and delicious. It is one of the most popular game fishes in northeastern North America, actively sought by both fly fishing and spinning enthusiasts. In some areas it is protected from commercial sale because of its status as a game fish.
Overhanging Trees and Bushes
Usually close to shore, these spots offer protection from the sun and above-water predators. Bigger fish rest in these areas if the water isn’t too shallow, allowing quick access to deeper water for feeding and escape.
Outsides of Bends
When the river or stream curves, the faster water (which carries the food) moves to the outside of the bend, and fish look for food in these bends. If the outside of the bend also contains a rock or fallen tree (to slow down the food-carrying current), it’s an even better place to catch fish.
A current edge is a place where natural or man-made objects slow the current. When the current slows, the food that travels with it also slows. So fish rest at current edges and wait for a nice, slow meal to come by. Current edges can be created by natural or man-made structures like bends, merging currents, drop-offs, rocks and islands.
Merging Currents - Feeder Brooks, Stream or Creek Mouths
Flowing water carries food. So when two bodies of flowing water meet, fish will find twice as much food. Plus, when currents collide, there’s a small area in the intersection where the water and food actually slow down, making merging currents an excellent place to catch fish.
When water flows over a drop-off, it slows down and sinks, taking the food it carries with it. A drop-off is a great feeding place because it has food, deeper water and it’s away from the current, allowing for a more relaxing dining experience for the fish.
Rock and Boulder Pockets
When flowing water hits rocks and boulders, it splits and goes around the obstruction, creating an area of calm water on the downstream side of the obstruction. Fish will rest, facing upstream, on the downstream side of a rock. These pockets are small, but a handy cast could land you a fish.
Undercuts are considered the perfect hiding spot on the river. They occur where the current has cut out a cave-like hole in earth or rock along the shore. If there’s a tree above the undercut, all the better. Undercuts provide protection from above-water predators and the sun. And easy access to deeper water for feeding or escape. The biggest, baddest river fish live in undercuts.
Dams and Falls
When water continually drops off a dam or falls, it creates a big hole or drop-off. Fish will sit at the bottom of these holes to get away from the current and to eat sinking food. Fish can get trapped in these holes if they are going upstream to find cooler water or to spawn.
Small Pointed Waves
These triangle-shaped waves form where faster water meets slower water. Like the riverside edge of a bend, bay or eddy. Large fish gather under these waves because the water slows and food drops.
Riparian zones are the middle strip of vegetation between the river and the flatter land beyond the shore. These zones serve as a natural biofilter to protect water from excessive sedimentation, polluted surface runoff and erosion. And they supply shelter, food and shade for fish and other aquatic animals. A thriving riparian zone is a sign of good water quality and good fishing.
Rivers and Streams
In a lake or pond, fish have to move around to find food. In a river or a stream, the food comes to them. So moving-water fish find hiding places and travel anywhere from a few feet to up to several hundred feet, several times a day to eat.
You have to decide if you’re going to fish where the fish are hiding or where the fish are feeding. Either way, you’ll have to learn about river and stream feeding and hiding structure.
Hiding structure include undercuts in the banks, eddies, sunken trees and overhanging trees and bushes: places that provide protection from the current and above-water predators.
Feeding places include the outside of bends, merging currents, drop-offs, feeder brooks and springs: places where the current slows down and food collects or sinks.
In general, fish found in moving water tend to be a little smaller than lake fish. But they’re fighters, strong from battling the currents.
When fast moving water flows into a small inlet, or eddy, it slows down and creates a whirlpool. Fish will feed where the whirlpool is slowest or in the main body of the river where the whirlpool kicks out the food that has been carried in and out of the eddy.
If you see waves on the water that look like a rollercoaster, the water is probably going over underwater rocks. Fish like to sit in the shallow part of these waves.
Bait casting is a style of fishing that relies on the weight of the lure to extend the line into the target area. Bait casting involves a revolving-spool reel (or “free spool”) mounted on the topside of the rod. Bait casting is definitely an acquired skill. Once you get the hang of the technique (check out the casting animation), you will be casting your lures right on target into the structures where fish are feeding and hanging out.
With bait casting, you can use larger lures (1/2 to 3/4 ) and cast them for longer distances. To get started, you’ll need a rod with good spring action, a good quality anti-backlash reel, 10–15 pound test line and a variety of specific bait-casting lures.
With fly-fishing, various materials are used to design a very lightweight lure called a fly. A fly can serve as a ‘dry fly’ or ‘wet fly’. A dry fly will float on the water and mimic a floating insect and a wet fly will sink below the surface to mimic a swimming bait. It takes a little practice, but fly-fishing is a pure and exciting way to fish. Unlike other casting methods, fly-fishing can be thought of as a method of casting line rather than lure. Non-fly-fishing methods rely on a lure's weight to pull line from the reel during the forward motion of a cast. By design, a fly is too light to be cast on its own so it must follow the trajectory of the cast fly line, which is thicker and heavier so that it casts easier than lines used in other types of fishing (such as monofilament). The angler normally holds the fly rod in the dominant hand and manipulates the line with the other hand close to the reel, pulling line out in small increments as the energy in the line, generated from backward and forward motions, increases.
Fishing through a three-foot hole in the ice? Yup. It’s a unique way to catch multiple species of northern, fresh-water fish. And thanks to advancements in outdoor clothing design, portable fish houses and fish locating devices, it’s becoming more and more popular every day. You can also ice fish with tip-ups. When a fish hits your tip-up gear, it releases a lever that raises a flag or rings a bell. When you hear the tip-up alarm, you should immediately head for the rod to check for a hooked fish.
When fishing for the different species of fish found under ice, it is important to remember that most fish living in extremely cold weather will be moving and feeding in a much more lethargic manner. The slow moving fish will not cover as much area under ice as they would during the summer months so it is important to mark where you catch your fish. This can be done my marking the depths of your line so you know how deep your bait is when you get a bite. Portable fishing electronics, like fish finders or fish viewers, are also great tools when fishing under a thick layer of ice.
Many fisherman ice fish with no protective structure other than their winter clothes and are exposed to the elements for short periods of time. Longer fishing expeditions can be accomplished with the help from very simple and basic structures such as sheds and small shelters that can house a small group. Larger, heated structures can make multi-day fishing trips possible, but these are for the serious anglers who intend on camping for several days while fishing. These structures are dragged or trailered onto a lake using a vehicle such as a snowmobile, ATV or truck. The two most commonly used houses are portable and permanent shelters. The portable houses are usually made of a heavy, watertight material. The permanent shelters are made of wood or metal and usually have wheels for easy transportation. They can be as basic as a bunk, heater and holes or as elaborate as having satellite TV, bathrooms, stoves, and full-size beds, and may appear to be more like a mobile home than a fishing house.
We won’t say it’s foolproof, but spin casting is an ideal fishing method for beginning anglers. Spin-casting equipment is easier to use than bait casting. You can use it to cast both light and heavy lures without tangling or breaking your line. Basic equipment includes a 7-foot rod, a spinning reel and 6–10 pound test line for casting 1/16- to 3/4 ounce lures. You can use an open-face, closed-face or spin-cast reel for spin casting.
Still fishing is a versatile way to go. You can do it from a pier, a bridge, an anchored boat or from shore. And you can still fish during most seasons and during any part of the day. Your equipment and the size of the hooks and bait you use depend on what kind of fish you’re after. Your best equipment for still fishing is patience. You have to wait for the fish to bite. A great method for still fishing is to use one rod with natural bait that will soak or sit on the bottom as well as a casting rod with an artificial bait or lure. While you’re letting your natural bait soak, you can keep occupied and cover more ground while taking casts with a lure.
Bait & Lures
Cured Fish Roe
Salmon or trout eggs are one of the most effective baits when targeting fish like salmon, steelhead and trout. When spawning fish are active in the streams, rivers, shorelines or harbors they will often ignore any other baits and lures that you try to throw at them. An egg spawn sack (usually a small pouch of cheesecloth with clusters of eggs) or cured skein (cluster of cured eggs) can be attached to your hook and can either be left to float freely or weighted with a small sinker to get the bait deeper. Cured fish roe can be found at most bait and tackle shops or with a little bit more effort, you can make it yourself.
Poppers and flies are small lures used with spincast and fly-fishing tackle. These baits are very good for pan fish and other fish that feed on the surface such as trout and bass. Poppers get their action from a cupped face carved or molded into the front of the lure body. Fly action is totally controlled by the angler.
Ants, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets and caterpillars are ideal for catching pan fish, sunfish and trout. Brown trout are especially attracted to ants presented on a fly. Smallmouths and large trout prefer immature versions of mayflies, stoneflies, caddis, hellgrammites and dobsonfly larvae. You can buy insects or catch your own. Ants can be gathered from a nest and large insects can be captured with a net.
Jigs have weighted metal heads and a tail made of animal hair, soft plastic, feathers or rubber. Anglers sometimes add a minnow or piece of pork rind to the jig's hook. Jigs can be used to catch nearly every kind of freshwater fish
Spoons are metal lures designed to look like a swimming baitfish or minnow. Many spoons are made to be cast while others are meant to be trolled behind a moving boat. Depending on where and how you're fishing, you can buy weedless, structure or trolling spoons. Ask your tackle shop which types you need.