Common Name: Eastern Brook Trout
Other Names: Squaretail, Brookie, Speckled Trout
Scientific Name: Salvelinus fontinalis
Adult Size: Size varies greatly, depending on water temperature, productivity, and food sources. The statewide average length of 3 year-old brook trout in Maine lakes is 13.3 inches. However, same age trout from different lakes range from 7.5 to 17.5 inches in length. Stream populations are typically slower growing than lake populations. Some high elevation trout populations mature and reproduce at lengths smaller than 6 inches.
Identification: Color is variable, depending on habitat. Brook trout can be distinguished from other members of the trout family by the dark, wavy, worm-like line on their back and the white leading edges of their fins, including the tail.
Diet: They're opportunistic feeders, happy to eat aquatic insects or smaller fish.
Fishing Tips: Brook trout (also known as squaretails) prefer cold water between 50 and 65 degrees. They thrive in clear, clean, well-oxygenated waters, and their populations are heavily influenced by their environment.
In the spring and fall, brook trout can be caught near shore or on the surface using small dry flies, streamers, copper lures, and worms.
During the summer months, you're more likely to find them in depths of 10 to 35 feet. You can catch them using a variety of methods including spin casting, fly fishing, trolling, or casting using small streamer flies, nymphs, copper lures, or worms.
Brook trout are fun to catch ice fishing as well. During winter months, you'll generally find them close to shore in water depths of 4 to 12 feet. Try using minnows, worms, or copper jigs.
Interesting Facts: Brook trout have been eliminated from much of their native range because they are very sensitive to illegal introductions, especially warmwater species like bass and perch. However, they are incredibly resilient in their undisturbed habitats. In northern Maine, brook trout can be found in just about any stream with a source of cold water. We have even seen them inhabiting roadside ditches.
Management: There are two primary management strategies for stocking brook trout in Maine: Put and Take; and Put, Grow, and Take. Put and Take fisheries are created solely by stocking fish of a legal size to provide instant fishing opportunities. These types of fisheries are common in areas where the habitat is not adequate to provide year-round survival, or competition from other species is limiting.
Put, Grow, and Take fisheries are more common in the northern areas of the State. These waters have good water quality and limited competition but usually lack suitable spawning habitat, so the life cycle of brook trout cannot be completed without supplemental stocking. In these waters, brook trout are stocked at smaller sizes, then they grow for a year or more to be legal size. Some will survive to older ages and create quality fishing opportunities. Many of these waters are small remote trout ponds that are stocked by plane.
Of course, Maine is also home to a vast number of self-sustaining brook trout lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams. Many of these waters have never been stocked. Length and bag limits may vary based on the characteristics of the wild brook trout populations. For example, some ponds have an abundance of spawning habitat and the population may be very robust, but the fishery is dominated by smaller fish. Other ponds have a limited amount of spawning habitat and produce fewer fish, but of a larger size. The most important management concern for all our wild and native brook trout ponds is to protect the water from habitat degradation and illegal introductions of competing fish species.
The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is constantly monitoring and evaluating brook trout fisheries across the State. Fisheries biologists recently documented large brook trout, many between three and seven pounds, spawning on the shoreline of Moosehead Lake. Brook trout from Maine’s largest lake typically spawn in the tributaries in early October. These unique shore-spawners begin their spawning activity in mid-November and some may even still be spawning into January.