Brook Trout – An in depth look at the species

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February 22nd, 2022

Trophy sized brook trout and Superior Country are synonymous. The fact the world record was caught on the Nipigon River back in 1915, will forever tie the two together. When a record Stands for as long as Dr. Cooks monster brookie has, you know that there is something special here.  All the things that make brook trout thrive and grow to a giant size, are found in Superior Country. Let’s examine that fascinating sport fish that is the brook trout.

Trophy sized Brook Trout

 Life cycle

Brook trout – or speckled trout – are not a true trout, but what is called a char. Lake trout are also a member of the char family. Char demand cold clear water and that is certainly true of brook trout. The Latin name of the brook trout is Salvelinus Fontinalus, or “dweller of the spring.” This name is fitting as a key requirement for successful brook trout spawning is the presence of upwelling water. In the fall from late September and into December, depending on location, brookies will seek out these upwelling areas, dig a nest – or Redd – and lay eggs. Male brookies become vividly colored in the weeks before the spawn and are aggressive. Several males may accompany a female during a spawn although they will often chase each other around. After fertilization, the eggs receive a small covering of gravel, but receive no further care. Those eggs develop over the winter and hatch in late winter or early spring. A Nipigon strain brookies over 18 inches might produce 4,000 eggs or more. In smaller streams, however, sexually mature fish that are five inches long will produce only a couple of hundred eggs. The young-of-the-year brook trout (trout less than one year old) develop longitudinal “parr marks” that helps to protect it from predators. Everything from kingfishers to loons to other trout eat baby brookies. Trout with parr marks are called “fingerlings” or “parr.”

Nipigon River Brook Trout
Brook Trout are a relatively short-lived fish. Few survive in the wild longer than five years, although the larger Nipigon strain and Lake Superior “coaster” brookies can live to seven years.  The one fish, 22-inch minimum size regulation was implemented on the Nipigon/Lake Superior populations because by that length, a fish will have spawned three times.


Brook trout are a fish that will eat just about anything they can get down the hatch. All brookies feed on insects, including the nymph and terrestrial forms of mayflies, caddis, stoneflies, midge and cranefly, to name a few. Aquatic food items include water beetles, tadpoles, salamanders, leeches, scuds and all types of minnows including sticklebacks and sculpin. In some water bodies, brook trout will eat surface swimming creatures like frogs and mice. Large waters like Lake Superior and Lake Nipigon see adult brook trout focusing on rainbow smelt as a food source. A big brookies can eat a large number of smelt that are up to four inches. Although trophy brookies tend to focus on eating fish, a huge hatch of mayflies or caddis will bring even the biggest trout to the surface to feed.

Water Quality and Habitat

Brook trout demand clean, cold water and cannot abide by polluted water. Brookies were once commonly found in the eastern United states and Southern Ontario. However, the arrival of large cities and industry has greatly reduced the natural range of these fish. Wild population of brook trout are very rare in the modern age, and trophy sized populations are unicorns. Superior Country remains one of the last bastions of large, wild brook trout.

Brook trout thrive in all types of habitats, from small creeks to beaver ponds to massive waterbodies like Lake Superior. Some small lakes have brook trout stocked in them on an annual basis, and these fish are there to catch and keep. Angler who enjoy eating trout should get familiar with Ontario’s Fish online website and check out the many lakes that are stocked. Wild fish are sensitive to harvest and restrictive regulations are in place to protect them.

River fishing for Brook Trout

Brook trout can put up with water temperature in the mid 60s F. for a time, but they thrive in water that is 50 to 60 F. In the spring, the water is cold and the brookies will be shallow and very close to shore. They will school around points, rock piles and fallen trees, feeding on whatever come by. As the spring wears on, the brookies will start to hold in water that is deeper but will roll into the shallows in the morning and evening. In smaller, inland lakes, when summer surface temperatures hit 70 f. or up, the trout will go to something called the thermocline. A thermocline is the transition layer between warmer mixed water at the surface and cooler deep water below. In creeks and rivers, when the water gets warm, brookies will head for rapids and falls, where the water is highly oxygenated or into areas where there are springs. In the huge northern rivers of Superior Country, like the Albany and Ogoki, brook trout will run into small, spring fed rivers and set up shop. Some of these creeks are quite small but can have a dozen trout or more sitting n an area the size of a bathtub.

Nipigon River
As fall approaches, the water will start to cool, and the trout will be starting to take on more color. The bellies of the male brook trout turn red, or orange and they will develop a hooked snout or kype. August and early September has brookies at the peak of their beauty. The incredible color these fish possess can take your breath away.

Brook trout are among the most prized and legendary sportfish in North America. If you have been wanting to notch your personal brookie best catch, there is no better place to do it than Superior Country.

This is where they live.