Trout fishing is reported to have occurred year-round for some cultures and during specific seasons for others. The Salish of Middle Columbia River in the United States fished for trout from May to August . The southern Okanagan fished in late summer and fall . The Lillooet and Shuswap fished only during the month of May . The Thompson (N'laka'pamux) fished for trout in spring and autumn [19, 48] and the Chilcotin in winter . The Upper Kutenai (Kootenai)  fished year-round. Yukon Indigenous Peoples fished during summer and winter , Caribou Inuit during autumn , the Eyak fished during spring and summer . The Micmac (Mi’kmaq)  fished year-round and the Montagnais (Innu) of Lake Melville, Labrador fished from January to March as well as from mid-September to October .
A variety of methods were used in trout fishing. Interior Salish used a bag-net made of bark or twine that was suspended from a hoop; the weight of the fish pulled the bag closed . The Southern Okanagan used hooks, lines, and traps . The Thompson used hooks, nets, traps, and “gorges”, fishing from early spring to fall . The Kutenai are reported to have used nets, canoes  and traps and weirs . The Upper Kutenai used a “yá’ka”: a weir made of sticks, and ropes made from dogbane, silverberry or ocean spray withes. An individual fisher was required to obtain authorization from the chief to set a trap in a particular spot. Every man was allowed to make one weir: all fish caught by this weir belonged to him, but he was required to share his catch with eight or nine families. Among the Lower Kutenai, a double trap weir was set up at waterfalls in autumn; this trap model slowly made its way up to the upper region. Weirs were made from fir, cedar or tamarack and were similar as those in upper region, but instead of being in the centre of the body of water where flow was fastest, they were set up at the edges, where streams were slower flowing. They were watched over by two men who stood at each side of the opening to make sure all the fish entered the trap. Hefty screens made from fir branches were laid out from bank to bank, along the bed of the “slough”, with room for a trap on each side of the bank. A layer of grass with its roots and soil was put at the bottom of the weir to camouflage the trap. This process of fabricating and positioning the traps took many days to complete, and required skilled men. Rights over the fish caught using these traps were similar to those in the upper regions. During fishing season, the camps moved further upstream, while the men fished in the flooded lower regions. The Lower Kutenai also used a weir trap “yá’ka” or “à’kitska”, made from willow twigs and dogbane bark. Trapping in the lower regions was reported to have been done by groups of men that were guided by the “Fishing Chief”, and not under property agreement. Every dawn, the “Fishing Chief” checked over each trap to analyze how many men and boats he would need according to the day’s catch. Each boat would get filled and sent back to camp. The youth were required to transfer the fish from the boats into baskets, and to deliver them to a patch of newly picked grass in front of the chief’s house .
The Stalo caught trout using harpoons normally intended for salmon fishing, as well as fire torches. Smaller trout were caught using smaller harpoons especially made for trout fishing that either had a single or triple-pronged end. They also used thin gauze-like nets attached to two sticks, with bark attached to the bottom to avoid it making any sound on the bed. The Stalo hunter normally kept only the necessary amount of fish, and shared the rest of his catch . Kyuquot considered trout fishing a leisure activity, with fishing rods, lines, and fresh bait used .
The Shuswap are reported to have used canoe and short “leister” , big nets and fish traps , weir-trap systems, spears and “gaffs” . Thompson River and Kamloops Lake were main fishing sites for trout for Shuswap. Chilcotin are reported to have used nets and traps , with “basketry traps” set in shallow waters being a preferred method. The Nuxalk caught trout using lines  as well as basket-type traps .
The Tutchone used “leisters”, as well as a weir-trap system . The Tagish used “gill” nets with floats and sinkers made of lead, stone, or sandbags attached. In earlier times, they used to spear using a grease-covered stone or the belly of a white trout as a lure, and a two-pronged spear made from wood, caribou and moose antlers . The Tlingit fished at Teslin Lake from spring through fall, with “gill” nets and spears with a handle made from birch bark used during the winter. Fishhooks were also used to catch trout, at Teslin Lake as well as at Nakina Canyon falls during the winter. Tlingit used a trap that resembled a pail . In earlier times, the Tanaina caught trout using hooks made from bone, and later on, they were made from metal . The Dease River Kaska used traps, spears, nets, and “angles” . In winter the Saulteaux and Sekani ice fished with hook and line . The Kutchin (Gwich’in) used hooks made from bone with no bait . The Dogrib fished from March to December, and used “gill” nets, earlier made from willow bark, and later on from a more industrial material. They attached floats and weights to the nets. Hooks were sometimes employed during winter fishing . The Chipewyan were reported to have used canoes, spears, weirs, “gill” nets, and hooks .
The Ahtna used “funnel” traps, a fishing hook and line, and during the winter they cut holes in the ice and caught trout using spears . The Eyak used a fishing line and hook .
Iglulik Inuit caught trout in open water as well as through holes in the ice . Inuit sometimes caught trout with a type of noose attached to a pole, but during summer, they more often used weirs made of stone that blocked the entrance and exit of a river at low tide. They also used pronged spears, made from antlers or musk-ox horn . Fishing was considered a community affair, with a disorganized pursuit to spear and catch as many fish possible once the weirs were in place. Central Inuit partook in ice fishing using a jig made from an unbarbed hook of iron that sat underneath a weight made from bone, with fish skin as bait. During summer in Greenland, hunters fished for trout up the fjords of Greenland . Inuit had special fishing practices: the face of the fish was always required to be turned towards the ice hole, so that other fish would want to join it, and while putting the fishing line into the hole after catching a fish, the hunter always repeated “Encore, encore, give me another” .
The Mi’kmaq fished mid March to mid June using a “leister” made from bone or ivory. Fishing usually happened at night, using torches to entice the fish [2, 58]. The Mistissini used “set lines” and “jigging” to catch trout . The James Bay Cree from Fort George, Eastmain and Paint Hills used nets . The Huron used large fishing nets that were set up after dusk and brought back in at dawn [34, 35]. The Iroquois (excluding the Mohawk and Andaste territories) used weirs, nets, and spears during the autumn . The Montagnais of Lake Melville, Labrador used fish hooks made from steel replaced those made from bone, and industrial fishing line or string was sometimes used . Nets, spears, as well as a homemade fishing rod were also used. Bait used was a small piece of meat, until the first trout was caught, when pieces of the fish near the ventral duct were used. During winter, a hole was cut into the ice for fishing purposes. Quebec Inuit women fished alone during winter, jigging a handheld fishing line through a hole in the ice .
A variety of preparation methods have been documented. Nuxalk preferred to consume trout fresh , however they also roasted the fish over a fire or smoked it using alder wood or cedar . Most trout was eaten raw by the Stalo . The Southern Okanagan sometimes sun-dried their trout . The Thompson roasted trout tails over a fire; fried trout was also soaked, pulverized into a powder, mixed with grease and eaten . Dogrib steamed, baked, fried and boiled pieces of trout, with the boiling water often consumed . Trout could be stored frozen, or dried either with the head attached or taken off, then stored in boxes made from cardboard, wood, or flour sacks. A flour was made from the back piece of the fish (“etsl” or “pounded fish”), and “fish pemmican” was made by mixing this flour with fat. Fish preparation and preservation was mostly done, but not exclusively, by women. The Sahtu (Hareskin) Dene of Fort Good Hope and Colville Lake consumed the trout head, esophagus and eggs, and cooked the meat [54, 60]. The Dene/Metis have been reported to smoke and dry trout .
Common cooking methods of the Kutchin were: broiling by splitting and holding open the fish with willow twigs, roasting by laying the whole fish close to the fire and boiling fish pieces in a basket. Fish were also dried in summer by women. Drying of the fish included cutting off the head, removing backbone and tail, scoring the fleshy surface and hanging to dry; dried fish were packed in a birch bark basket with grease from fish viscera and pounded dried fish or berries. The grease added value to the basket, making it easier to sell. River trout eggs were seldom consumed because they required a long boiling time .
Inuit dried the fish, with custom requiring a visitor to present his host with a piece of fish . West Greenlanders sometimes smoked trout over a fire of heather .
The Mi’kmaq smoked fish on racks made from wood over a fire . The Huron cut whitefish open, removed its guts, and laid it out on drying racks [34, 35]. If the conditions were inappropriate for dehydrating, the fish were smoked, and then used to make relish for soup, and consumed during feasts. The Malecite smoked or salted them, and stored them in boxes made from birch bark .
Beliefs and taboos
A Huron “fish preacher” summoned the fish every night to provide the tribe with food [34, 35]. Sometimes they burned tobacco or tossed it into the water while saying a prayer. A ritualistic event was reported in which two girls were married to a net to ensure a bountiful amount of fish caught. Among the Dogrib, fish skin and bone was not burned, because it was considered to displease the fish and make them leave the area .
Lake trout were caught by the Tahltan using “gaff” hooks, nets, traps, baskets, as well as a barbed hook from wood, with a salmon roe or meat as bait . The Hare (Sahtu) used 4-5 inch “gill” nets, for which men were mostly responsible; commercial nets made from nylon twine were later preferred. The nets had floats including a marker float, weights, and an anchor made from stone attached. The net was tied to a large stone or willow tree on shore, or a birch stick wedged into the bed of the lake . Kutchin (Gwich’in) used nets and hooks made from bone with no bait . Lake trout were found in many lakes year-round near the Peel River Kutchin, and weighed from fifteen to thirty pounds . Yukon Indigenous Peoples used spears to catch lake trout .
Subarctic Indigenous Peoples have been documented to catch lake trout using a spear, a hook in open water, or holes in the ice during winter or early spring .; the Chipewyan at Fort Resolution used fishing nets at Resolution Bay during the “season of open water” . Inuit used a hook and line . Copper Inuit and Netsilik Inuit fished from July to mid-August, and in late fall, a small number of fish were “jigged” through the ice . Other reports of Copper Inuit describe ice fishing in early spring  as well in winter . The Nuiqsut (Inupiat) fished during the month of April and used a line and hook . For cultures of Mackenzie River, Coronation Gulf and Great Bear Lake, the fish were located in the large lakes of the interior regions, and were caught using “set hooks”, by “jigging” during ice fishing, or through the use of nets . When lake trout were available to Indigenous People of Fort Resolution, they caught them during winter using fishing lines and during open water season they used nets .
Anishnabeg (Anishinabek) (Ojibway) used spears or hooks with a line attached . Anishnabeg also used torches at night to entice the fish, and a fish carving as a distraction when spearing through the ice. The Chipewyan of the Stony Rapids Region partook in commercial and domestic fishing .
East Main Cree used fishing rod and hook . Quebec Inuit caught the fish by using “set lines” with a piece of caribou meat as bait . The Naskapi (Innu) of Davis Inlet, Labrador, caught lake trout through the ice during the spring , whereas the Huron fished from early November to the beginning of December [86, 87].
Several preparation methods have been reported. Chipewyan lake trout surpluses were smoked or dried, or stored in the village freezer . The Carrier roasted it in spruce bark below coals of a fire, and stored it for later consumption . Common cooking methods of Peel River Kutchin were broiling by splitting and holding open the fish with willow twigs, or roasting by laying the whole fish close to the fire and boiling fish pieces in a basket. Women also dried fish in summer by cutting off the head, removing the backbone and tail, scoring the fleshy surface and hanging it to dry; dried fish were packed in a birch bark basket with grease from fish viscera and pounded dried fish or berries. Peel River Kutchin reported that this method of packing trout insured a balanced diet. In addition, the grease added value to the basket, making it easier to sell. Lake trout eggs were dried before consuming . The Chandalar Kutchin consumed the fish fresh or dried. “Fish pemmican” was made, as well as a soup from the fish heads . Lake trout roe was eaten frozen by the Hare (Sahtu) and considered to be “rich and sweet” which is why it was referred to as “bush ice cream” . Its intestines were also considered a delicacy. Inuvialuit and Dene of the Northwest Territories preserved the fish by drying . The Northern Manitoba Cree preserved lake trout by freezing , and Quebec Inuit by smoking . The Montagnais-Naskapi (Innu) and Mistassini shared a catch of lake trout with the family . The Huron dehydrated lake trout to store for winter consumption [86, 87].
Rainbow trout were available to the Lillooet of southwestern British Columbia. They used set-lines/hemp lines set with baited hooks, spears with leisters, or fish traps. Torches were used at night to attract fish to the surface of lakes where they would be speared .
Rainbow Trout - Steelhead Trout
Steelhead trout, an important sea-run form of rainbow trout, is reported to have been consumed by west coast cultures including the Chinookan of the Lower Columbia River (Oregon and Washington States) , Coast Salish  and Bella Coola (Nuxalk) [120, 134]. Steelhead were also thought to be important to the people of the Plateau  and available to the people of the Columbian Plateau . St. Lawrence Island Yupik occasionally consumed steelhead from inland rivers . Steelhead were also consumed by the Slave (Sahtu) of the Fort Nelson area and the Tlingit [41, 137].
The fish were usually caught March and April. The Southern Okanagan, Lower Lillooet and Gitksan (Gitxsan) caught them in March or April [32, 114, 116, 121, 124]. The Tahltan caught them from mid-March to April and in September; the Coeur d’Alene caught them from May to October and from November to April [116, 121]. The Upper Lillooet caught them from fall through spring . They were available all year round to the Bella Coola (Nuxalk), and the Central Coast Salish had some winter runs available [53, 119, 120, 129, 131].
Steelhead were caught with weirs, gaff and pole, nets, spears, fish wheels, harpoons, leisters, traps, hooks and by “trolling” [18, 26, 32, 53, 126, 129, 130]. The Ahtna caught them with fish wheels, the Shuswap caught them with traps, and the Northern Coast Salish caught them by “trolling” [18, 30, 130]. The People of the Fraser Valley hunted them with a harpoon with two heads of different lengths and they also caught them with hooks made of thorn or bone. The Chilliwack and Stalo of the Fraser Valley, in particular, also used nets, weirs and traps .
The Tahltan, Nootka (Nuu-chah-nulth) of Vancouver Island and Central Coast Salish used a variety of tools to catch steelhead. The Tahltan used spears and they also used weirs made of spruce and red willow whites. At the beginning of the 20th century, weir use was banned, but the ban was no longer in place in the latter part of the century. They also used gill nets, especially during the weir ban. Additionally, they used cylindrical trap baskets and hand nets. In shallow waters, they used a gaff with a pole, and a detachable hook made of caribou antler, or in latter times, iron. Of note, the men did the fishing. The Nootka of Vancouver Island caught them with “rodwork” weirs and traps, as well as harpoons and “leisters” as the run slowed down. The Central Coast Salish used harpoons, “leisters”, “gaff” hooks, four-pronged spears, “dip” nets, “basket” traps, weirs, and “trawl” nets depending on the size of the stream and how clear the water was [116, 126, 129].
The Bella Coola used two types of traps that steelhead were forced to jump over and into a waiting basket; these were made either from hemlock stakes and logs, or from a “logjam”. Each village possessed a trap on the Bella Coola River, and no other village was allowed to fish from the trap . The Coast Salish caught steelhead using a “trolling line” made from stinging nettle and a U-shaped hook made from hollowed out deer shinbone. They also caught them using a single-pronged harpoon, with a point made from deer antler or bone, with two barbs made from Douglas fir tied down with wild cherry bark twine. They used a “tidal weir”, presumably in small bays, and used a “river weir-trap”, presumably in rivers, with men throwing rocks at the fish so they would enter the weir-trap. Once trapped, they were taken by hand, “gaff-hooking”, or by spear .
The Thompson were reported to have speared steelhead in the Thompson River near Spences Bridge using pitch-lamps to attract the fish to the surface . The Lillooet of southwestern British Columbia used several fishing methods: set-lines, hemp lines with baited hooks, spears with leisters (using torches at night to attract fish to the lake’s surface) or fish traps . Although steelhead were available in fall and winter, the fish has not been reported to be an important contributor to the diet of the Fraser Lillooet of British Columbia . The Stalo reportedly caught steelhead with harpoons, nets weirs and hooks .
The Gitksan and Wet’suwet’en considered steelhead their most important food source . Preparing steelhead was typically a woman’s role. Gitksan women used traditional cutting tools made of stone, bone, tooth or shell and they took care to make sure the steelhead was not damaged by insect eggs, sun burn, improper hanging or cutting. Tahltan women used knives with blades made of obsidian to butcher the fish. It is believed that the women made these knives. In latter times, they used knives made of steel. They took good care to make sure the fish was not contaminated with fly eggs [116, 124].
Steelhead flesh was consumed dried, braised, boiled, smoked, roasted and canned [49, 53, 116, 122, 124]. The Tahltan dried the flesh on a rack using smoke and they stored it for later use in a cache, packed in bark. They ate fresh steelhead braised in a bark wrap or boiled in birch bark containers using hot rocks .
The People of the Fraser Valley ate the flesh “fresh”, the Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka'wakw) ate it roasted, and the Coast Salish ate it canned and dried [26, 49, 122]. The Coast Salish barbecued steelhead presumably on a three-foot stick made from red cedar. If a large piece of flesh was to be cooked, the skin and meat were spread open with “salmon stretchers” and then put on a stick . The Bella Coola prepared the flesh by roasting it on a fire or smoking it, and the Gitksan dried or smoked it to preserve it and ate the dried salmon dipped in oil [53, 124].
The roe was also eaten “fresh”, fermented and braised. The Bella Coola ate it fresh or fermented as “mutsi” (“stink eggs”), and the Tahltan ate it fermented or braised. The Tahltan fermented it by placing it in a bark vessel, which they then buried in a pit for a few days. They also braised roe, wrapping it in bark. They also used steelhead roe as bait [53, 116].
The Tahltan dried the head, tail, and backbone on a stick using smoke and stored it for later use in a cache, packed in bark. Dried fish was stored for later use in a cache, packed in bark . For the Tahltan, the head was desired: it was fermented or smoke dried. The head was fermented by storing it in a pit protected with branches and leaves, for a few days. They dried the head on a stick using smoke and stored it for later use in a cache, packed in bark. They also ate the tail and backbone. They dried the tail and backbone on a stick using smoke and stored them for later use in a cache, packed in bark. The Tahltan ate some of the bony parts of the steelhead and used other bony parts as dog food .
Beliefs and taboos
Steelhead were important culturally. The Tillamook held a “First Salmon Ceremony” upon the arrival of the first steelhead, which included a ceremonial spearing and cooking of the first fish . During puberty (approximately two years), Haida girls could eat only steelhead and red cod . The Mid-Columbia Indians grouped steelhead with sea-run salmon in the general category núsux in their native language Sahaptin .
Brook trout were consumed by the Mistissini Cree [90, 102, 103] and the Attawapiskat Cree [103, 138] of south-central Quebec, who caught them in the Ekwan and upper Attawapiskat Rivers . The Attikamek of Quebec and the Eastern James Bay Cree were also reported to have consumed brook trout [88, 113]. Brook Trout were consumed from May to August (and in smaller amounts from September to December) by the Micmac (Mi’kmaq) of Conne River, Newfoundland . The coastal Micmac of Richibucto, New Brunswick  and the northern Manitoba Cree  are reported to have consumed brook trout. The Salish and Dene are said to have caught large numbers of brook trout . The Davis Inlet Naskapi (Innu) were reported to have fished for brook trout through the ice in the spring . Caribou Inuit of western Hudson Bay between Churchill and Rankin Inlet were known to set nets for brook trout in the lake, or jig for brook trout through the ice in the winter . To the Anishnabeg (Anishinabek), brook trout was available in streams and lakes around the Great Lakes . The Cree of Fort George, James Bay and Eastmain consumed both freshwater and sea-run brook trout; they were reported to have used line and hook to catch sea-run trout [142, 143]. Brook trout were considered an important fish to the James Bay Cree of Quebec  and the Omushkego Cree of Ontario . Sea-run brook trout were reported to have been plentiful for Labrador coast Inuit . Introduced brook trout were widely available to the Interior Salish; however, they were not a primary food source.
Another important method used to catch brook trout was a bag-net made of bark or twine that was suspended from a hoop; the weight of the fish pulled the bag closed . The Stalo used small hooks made of crab-apple thorns tied together to catch brook trout; they were usually eaten fresh – a fisherman would give away that which he could not consume .
Cutthroat trout were reported to have been caught by Indigenous Peoples of the British Columbian coast . The Tahltan were reported to have consumed cutthroat trout. They were caught with a small gaff hook; in traps, baskets and nets; with a wooden hook barbed with wood, bone or metal baited with salmon eggs or meat . The Shuswap caught large amounts of cutthroat trout in spring with scoop nets at the outlets of lakes in the plateau between the Fraser and North Thompson rivers. This was the one of the first large harvests of fresh fish after the winter; the catches at Hihium and Green Lakes were well known . The Okanagan-Colville were reported to have consumed cutthroat trout . The Coeur d’Alene of Idaho and Washington States consumed cutthroat trout which spawned in the Spokane, Coeur d’Alene and Saint Joe rivers in March and April . The Bella Coola (Nuxalk) caught cutthroat trout with leisters, hook and line and gaffs. The fish were boiled, barbecued or smoke-dried . Cutthroat were available to the Southern Coast Salish  and Yukon First Nations . Cutthroat trout were caught by the Klahoose (of the Toba Inlet area and Cortes Island area of British Columbia) in nearby lakes and rivers . The Tlingit caught cutthroat trout in March, when the rivers began to run more freely. Fishermen used gill nets made of rawhide and cedar bark twine with bladders for floats and stones for sinkers. Usually there were two men per canoe: one to paddle, one to operate the net. The fish were eaten fresh; excess amounts were thrown on snow-covered rooftops to keep safe from the dogs . The Stalo reportedly caught cutthroat trout with harpoons, nets weirs and hooks. The fish was usually eaten fresh – a fisherman would give away that which he could not consume .
The Tahltan were reported to have consumed Dolly Varden trout. They were caught with a small gaff hook; in traps, baskets and nets; with a wooden hook barbed with wood, bone or metal baited with salmon eggs or meat . The Okanagan-Colville and Lillooet were reported to have consumed Dolly Varden [4, 20, 114]. They used set-lines/hemp lines set with baited hooks, spears with leisters, or fish traps. Torches were used at night to attract fish to the surface of lakes where they would then be speared . Dolly Varden were available to the Southern Coast Salish and Yukon First Nations [93, 147]. The Tlingit caught Dolly Varden trout in March, when the rivers began to run more freely . The Stalo reportedly caught Dolly Varden trout with harpoons, nets weirs and hooks. The fish was usually eaten fresh – a fisherman would give away that which he could not consume . Dolly Varden were available to Inuvialuit of Herschel Island, Hula-hula River, Cape Bathurst and Langton Bay . The Nuxalk occasionally caught Dolly Varden by line and prepared it fresh .
Bull trout are reported to have been consumed by the Kutenai (Kootenai) [1, 55].
Brown trout have been reported to be consumed by Yukon First Nations , although the species is not native or reported to have been stocked in the Yukon. Brown trout are likely to have been consumed by other indigenous peoples elsewhere in the North America where the species has a long history of introductions and stocking.
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Trout are part of the large salmonid family, including salmon, char, grayling, and whitefish species. In North America, trout are widespread and includes seven species: the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), the lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush), the brook trout (S. fontinalis), the cutthroat trout (O. clarkii), the Dolly Varden (S. malma), the bull trout (S. confluentus), and the brown trout (Salmo trutta).
In general, trout refers to smaller-bodied, freshwater salmonid members that spend their entire lives in streams or lakes, and can spawn more than once. However, some trout species have searun populations that grow quite large, such as the searun form of rainbow trout, called the steelhead trout. Like in other salmonids, all trout have an adipose fin (small fleshy fin located between the dorsal fin and the tail) and freshwater forms of trout have more dull colours, while searun forms are more silvery. In trout, like in other salmonid members, mature spawning males often develop elongated upper and lower jaws, called kype, and undergo some change in body colouration.
The lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) is the most widely distributed species of trout in North America. Lake trout occur from New York in the south-east to Alaska in the north-west. In Canada, lake trout occur as far north as lakes adjacent to the Arctic Ocean and Hudson Bay, as far east as Labrador and Nova Scotia, as far south as the Great Lakes basin, and as far west as lakes adjacent to the Pacific. Like other trout and salmon, lake trout are extensively stocked and have been successfully introduced outside their native range.
The lake trout is most closely related to other salmonid species in the same genus, like the Arctic char (S. alpinus), the Dolly Varden (S. malma), the brook trout (S. fontinalis), and the bull trout (S. confluentus). The name namaycush comes from a Native American word for that fish that means “dweller in the deep”. Other common names include gray trout, mackinaw, laker, togue and lake char. The French common name is touladi.
As specialized fish-eating predators, lake trout grow quite large (41-61 cm, 1-2.3 kg), occasionally exceeding 1 m and 11 kg. Lake trout have a large head and jaws with well-developed teeth. They have deeply forked tail, slightly more forked than the tail of Arctic char and much more forked than brook trout, which have a straight-edged, almost square tail. Lake trout are the least colourful char and are typically gray with some tints of blue or green. Large pale white or yellowish spots cover the entire body, including the tail and fins. The underside fins in lake trout sometimes have tints of red or orange and only white anterior borders, while brook trout have black and white borders.
Lake trout, like Arctic grayling, but unlike many other salmon and trout, does not tolerate salt water and thus is restricted to freshwater. Lake trout prefer cold, well-oxygenated water and is associated with large deep lakes, where these water conditions can be found year-round. Lake trout rely on lake spawning more than other trout and char, with only a few populations reproducing in rivers. Lake trout usually spawn in autumn, but in deep lakes with stable water temperature, they can spawn as early as August and as late as December. Eggs are laid over crevices of lake rocky bottoms and hatch in the spring, four to six months later. Lake trout feed on aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, with freshwater shrimp being an important food source that allows lake trout to grow large enough to feed on other fish, mainly smaller sculpin and whitefish. Once over 30 cm long, they can prey on fish that are up to half their own size. Lake trout are very long-lived, with a typical lifespan between 20-25 years, but can live over 60 years in the coldest waters with shortest growing seasons.
As specialized fish predators at the top of the food chain that tolerate a narrower range of temperatures, lake trout occur at lower abundance than shorter-lived and more opportunistic rainbow trout. Lake trout populations, because of long lifespan and low productivity, are susceptible to overfishing. Lake trout are an ideal target for lampreys, which attaches to fish and sucks out body fluids. Lamprey predation combined with over-exploitation, competing non-native species, and toxins devastated lake trout populations of the Great Lakes, which became extinct or reduced to very low numbers. Even after efforts to restore native lake trout populations in the Great Lakes, non-native Chinook and coho salmon and brown and steelhead rainbow trout now occupy the lake trout’s former role as the top predator in the Great Lakes.
The rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) is among the most beautiful and best known species of trout worldwide. In North America, rainbow trout are native to a wide coastal band along the Pacific from southwestern Alaska down to Mexico, near 24° N, the southernmost known native occurrence of any trout and salmon. Rainbow trout have also been widely introduced outside its natural range, such that it is now widespread in United States and Canada.
The rainbow trout is most closely related to the cutthroat trout (O. clarkii). In North America, rainbow trout include many subspecies, including the coastal rainbow trout or steelhead trout along the Pacific (O. m. irideus) and the redband trout located further inland within the Columbia River basin (O. m. gairdneri). Other common names include redside or silver trout and the French common name is truite arc-en-ceil.
Rainbow trout are a medium-sized trout, but freshwater forms rarely exceed 15 cm in length and 50 g in weight. Rainbow trout have many black spots on the body and also on the head. Cutthroat trout can be differentiated from rainbow trout in having no or only small black specks on the top of the head. Freshwater-resident rainbow trout are silvery or brassy colored with backs darker than sides and bellies and a pink to deep red band along the lateral line.
Freshwater rainbow trout first spawn at two or three years old in small streams, but at six years old in large lakes, and are capable of spawning multiple times. The diet of rainbow trout varies opportunistically from aquatic and terrestrial insects to fish, fish eggs, and squids. Small-stream rainbow trout live between three and four years, but large lake rainbow trout can live up to 10 years.
The rainbow trout is a very important food fish, with locally abundant populations across a broad geographic range. The species has been successfully introduced in many parts of North America and is commonly reared in hatcheries and used in aquaculture. However, many native freshwater rainbow trout populations have declined in abundance as a result of over-fishing, habitat loss, and the introduction of non-native fish.
Rainbow Trout - Steelhead Trout
Steelhead trout is a searun form of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). They spend two to three years in freshwater before migrating to the ocean and one to three years at sea before returning to freshwater to spawn.
Steelhead trout grow much bigger than freshwater rainbow trout and can approach 1 m in length and 20 kg in weight. They are bright silver, but become darker with deep red colours along the lateral line during spawning. Steelhead trout live between four and seven years.
Many native steelhead trout have declined in abundance, including nine stocks that are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
The brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) is a small to medium-sized trout species native to much of northeastern North America. In Canada, brook trout occur over most Quebec, Ontario, and Maritime Provinces, including Atlantic drainages of Newfoundland, Labrador, and Quebec, in the Great Lakes basins, and in tributaries of James Bay and Ungava Bay up to northeastern Manitoba. Brook trout occur farther south than other members of Salvelinus, occupying headwaters in northern Georgia. They have been widely introduced in North America, including streams of the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains where they are a threat to native bull trout.
The brook trout is most closely related to other salmonid species in the same genus, like the Arctic char (S. alpinus), the Dolly Varden (S. malma), the lake trout (S. namaycush), and the bull trout (S. confluentus). Hybridization occurs with bull trout in the Columbia River basin and with brown trout (Salmo trutta) (this hydrid is named tiger trout). Salvelinus fontinalis means char living in spring and other common names include brook char, speckled trout, and square tail. French common names include omble de fontaine and truite mouchetée.
The brook trout, like the rainbow and cutthroat trout, takes on various forms and stream-resident forms are much smaller (13-18 cm, 43-85 g) and have much shorter lifespan (2-3 years) than lake-resident and searun forms that can attain up to 70 cm and 6.6 kg and live for up to 24 years. Brook trout have distinctive wavy pale yellow markings on the back and dorsal fin and small red spots surrounded by blue halos that are not found in any other salmon, trout, or char. The underside fins in the brook trout have black and white borders on the front, while lake trout have only white borders. Brook trout have a straight-edged tail compared to lake trout and Arctic char, which is the source of theirsquare tail nickname. Mature spawning males have an intense orange colour on their belly and underside fins and can develop kypes (hooked jaws). Brook trout living in lakes or spending time at sea are more silvery in colour than stream fish.
The brook trout includes searun and freshwater populations resident in streams and lakes. Like lake trout, spawning typically occurs in autumn in streams or on lake bottoms. Brook trout attain maturity and spawn at a younger age in streams than in larger rivers or lakes. The diet of brook trout, like brown and rainbow trout, varies opportunistically and includes aquatic and terrestrial insects, smaller fish, and amphibians.
In some parts on its native range, the brook trout has declined in distribution and abundance, being largely replaced by non-native rainbow and brown trout. However, introduced brook trout are thriving in some western regionsIntroduced brook trout are now the the most common trout in many Rocky Mountain streams, where they threaten native cutthroat trout. In the Columbia River basin, introduced brook trout threaten native bull trout.
The cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii) is in the salmonid family and is most closely related to the rainbow trout (O. mykiss). In North America, cutthroat trout are found in coastal waters from southwestern Alaska to southern California and in inland waters from southern Alberta to the Rio Grande River basin. In North America, cutthroat trout have been subdivided into 14 major subspecies. In Canada, coastal cutthroat trout occur along the Pacific (O. c. clarkii) and west-slope cutthroat trout occur more inland in southern British Columbia and Alberta (O. c. lewisi). Other common names include speckled trout and red-throated trout and the French common name is truite fardée.
Cutthroat trout include searun populations as well as freshwater resident populations present in streams and lakes. Like rainbow trout, stream-resident cutthroat are much smaller and have much shorter lifespans than larger lake-resident and searun forms. Cutthroat trout have no spots or only small black specks on the top of the head, unlike rainbow trout that are more heavily spotted on the head. Also cutthroat have a distinct red or orange slash mark on each side of the lower jaw, making it appear as though the fish has a sliced throat.
Cutthroat trout are very sensitive to changes in water quality and temperature, as well as the introduction of non-native trout species. The current distribution and abundance of cutthroat trout is only a fraction of what it once was and many subspecies are now protected under the Endangered Species Act.
The Dolly Varden trout (Salvelinus malma) is most closely related to other salmonid species in the same genus, like the Arctic char (S. alpinus), the brook trout (S. fontinalis), the lake trout (S. namaycush), and the bull trout (S. confluentus). Dolly Varden have a very limited northern range in North America, occurring mainly in Alaska, British Columbia, Yukon, and Northwest Territories, and western Arctic populations are of special concern according to COSEWIC.
Dolly Varden trout are very similar in appearance to the bull trout and Arctic char and are all often confused. Dolly Varden are covered with red spots, generally smaller (smaller than the pupil of the eye) and more abundant compared to the spots on the Arctic char and bull trout are usually bigger in size. Freshwater Dolly Varden are most often found in deep portions of rivers and lakes, while searun Dolly Varden occupy marine waters close to shore, but both forms spawn in freshwater streams.
The bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) is most closely related to other salmonid species in the same genus, like the Arctic char (S. alpinus), the Dolly Varden (S. malma) the brook trout (S. fontinalis), and the lake trout (S. namaycush). They are native to northwestern North America and occupy freshwater drainage systems from Alaska to California and eastward all along the Rocky Mountains. Bull trout are very similar in appearance to the Dolly Varden and Arctic char and are all often confused.
The brown trout (Salmo trutta) is in the salmonid family, including salmon, grayling, and whitefish species, and its closest relative is the Atlantic salmon (S. salar). Brown trout are not native to North America, but have been introduced and are now successfully established in many locations across the contiguous United States, southeastern Canada, and Newfoundland. In eastern Canada and around the Great Lakes, brown trout rapidly replaced native brook trout, while in western Canada brown trout replaced native cutthroat trout from larger rivers. Salmo trutta means “trout salmon” and other common names include German trout, Lochleven trout, and von Behr trout. The French common name is truite brune.
Brown trout include searun and freshwater populations (stream- and lake-resident). Brown trout, like the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and the cutthroat trout (O. clarki), include smaller, shorter-lived stream-resident forms and larger, longer-lived lake-resident and searun forms. Brown trout have red and black spots on the body and the gill cover but almost none on the tail fin, while rainbow and cutthroat trout have only black spots spread across the body and the tail fin but few or none on the gill cover.
Behnke RJ: Trout and salmon of North America. New York, NY, USA: Free Press; 2002.