Smoky Mountain Fishing - Brook Trout Fishing

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Smoky Mountain Fishing - Brook Trout


Coloration and Markings

Smokies Brook TroutBrook trout are most easily recognized by the vermiculations, or wavy lines, on its dark, olive-green back. This is the same pattern the sun creates when it shines through rippled waters and casts shadows on the bottom of a river. What results from this natural occurrence is a literal camouflage that allows the brook trout hide from predators that lurk above such as herons and kingfishers.

You can also spot a brook trout by its pale yellow spots and typically you'll also notice a few small red spots surrounded by blue halos on their sides. The Brook trout is also recognized as the only trout with light spots against a dark background. Notice that the brown and rainbow trouts' spotting patterns are opposite from one another as on the rainbow you'll see dark spots on a paler background.

The brook trout's anal, pectoral, and ventral fins are edged starkly in white, another unique trait it holds against other common trout. The main giveaway is the white edging. Even when motionless, the brook's white-edged fins grab your attention. For the brook's predators, when it comes to the highly visible, white-edged fins, they are at a definite disadvantage.

Another of the brook's distinct characteristics is a relatively large head and mouth. The head itself amounts to almost a quarter of the total body length of an adult fish.

The lower flanks of males become brilliant orange during their fall spawning period, and older males may develop a slightly hooked lower jaw.

After checking all the previous characteristics, if you are still in doubt and can manage to catch one, feel along the center of the mouth's roof. The brook's vomerine bone, located along the mouth's roof, has teeth in a small cluster in the front. If you're feeling teeth all along the roof of the mouth, that's not a "brookie" you've caught.

Due to the brook trout's length, it can swim efficiently in water as shallow as the depth of its body. Their ability to maneuver around and through a variety of obstacles is an asset in capturing food in waters of all depths. The long, powerful run of a large rainbow, or brown, when first hooked is lacking with large brook trout, which tend to tug and twist closer to the bottom of the stream. It's their nature to resist in such a manner, determined primarily by their shape.

The colder, clearer streams are the ones most commonly populated by the brook trout - easily the most cold tolerant of all common trout.

The Range and Habitat of the "Brookie"

Brook trout in general are native to the northern half of the eastern United States, along with eastern Canada. Brook-trout populations reach as far south as Georgia along the Great Smoky Mountain chain, but these brook pockets have been steadily declining since at least 1900 and probably earlier. During this timing, overfishing, as well as logging, was prevalent and destroyed many of lower elevation habitats and the more accessible areas of highland streams that the brook had come to rely on. Logging was essentially eliminated with the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1936. Still, brook trout populations have continued to steadily decrease in the area. Accordingly, rainbow trout that were first introduced into the regional streams in 1910 have slowly displaced the remaining brook trout, thus sending them higher and higher into the area's headwater streams. These headwater areas are thought to be the brook trout's last refuge among the Great Smoky Mountains as the upstream movement of the rainbow may be finally limited by physical barriers such as waterfalls or other obstacles created by park employees on the brook trout's behalf.

Inherently cold water fish, the brook trout is at its best within a temperature range of 40 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. However, brook trout feed at temperatures as low as 34 degrees, and their lethal temperature limit is around 30 degrees.

A brook trout's tolerance reaches somewhere between 72 and 77 degrees - often reached in late summer in the middle and southern portions of its habitat. However, to avoid a predator or hunt for food the brook might venture briefly, but not too long, into warmer water.

Brook trout typically feed more at the river bottom, whereas rainbows are more open-water oriented and depend on insects at or near the lake's surface.

The Size of the Brook Trout

Living four years in the wild is quite a stretch for most brook trout, which generally have the shortest life span of the various trout species. The brook trout's overall growth is dependent on such natural factors as water temperature, habitat, and competition from other fish. The brook will rarely weigh more than three pounds, even in productive waters, by the end of their third year of life.

The catch-and-release process seems to provide the brook trout with a lot of stress at spawning time. It's widely thought that the brook should be left unmolested during this season, even though some brook trout waters permit year round fishing.

Park resource managers have determined that restoration efforts would be best utilized by closing some streams and tributaries to all fishing, thus ensuring that waterfalls act as a natural barrier to rainbow trout and their migration upstream.



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