Native Brook Trout are one of the most prized denizens of the Eastern forests of the United States. The mere presence of Brook Trout is an indication that a stream or lake is healthy and clean. While Brook Trout are not known for their size, some states, such as Virginia, actively stock a few trophy Brook Trout venues. Other states, such as Maryland, do not actively promote their Brook Trout habitats for fishing nor do much stocking. Maryland does promote one venue, though, the lower Savage River below Savage River Dam in Garrett County. Every state that has Brook Trout has a different set of regulations and fishery guidelines. It’s very important to know what your local rules and conditions dictate.
Once you’ve determined that you’re heading out to find the Brookies it’s worth taking some time to understand how they live their lives. Brook Trout need clean, well oxygenated water at an optimal temperature of 53 degrees or colder. As stream conditions change the trout will move up or downstream to find the cooler pools and rapids. For this reason it’s important to know a few things about the stream in which you’re fishing. Streams fed from natural lakes tend to warm up in the summer as warm water flows from the top of the lake. The trout will move downstream to cooler water, coming back in the fall. In the lake itself they will seek deep water, surfacing occasionally to feed. Where there is a dam present the trout will seek cold out-flows from sluice gates. If it’s a spillway the warm water problem will still apply. Be aware that the trout will move upstream from lakes to cold spring-fed headwaters in the summer, if such an option is available.
Brook Trout are voracious feeders and when hungry they will eat just about anything that comes their way. That being said, some conditioned responses still apply. In smaller streams or headwaters they will prefer aquatic insects (nymphs). In this case a sinking fly or lure bounced along the bottom may get them motivated to bite. During hatches it’s best to try to simulate the current hatch cycle. Other lure options are to dangle small crayfish, beetles, fake minnows, etc. Trout magnets are by far one of the most successful lures you can find for Brook Trout, as is Power Bait.
Be aware Brook Trout spawn in the fall with the peak of the spawn occurring in late October to early November. It’s important to respect their habitat during this critical time of year. Avoid wading in stream gravel, as this is where the female construct their nests (called redds) and deposit their eggs. As a matter of fact, avoid these areas throughout the Winter until after the frye hatch out in the early spring.
Most Brook Trout fisheries are catch and release, a practice I follow religiously. Never land the trout by lifting it out of the water with the fishing line, instead, use a net (cotton, not nylon) if at all possible. If you must land the trout by hand bring it in slowly and cup it with one hand while stabilizing its tail with the other. Make sure to pre-wet your hands so as not to damage its delicate protective coating.
A note on hooks: I always make sure to bend down the barbs on my hooks. Barbs don’t add appreciably to the ability to catch fish, but do add to the damage of removal. Remove the hook carefully, use hemostats if necessary. If the hook just wont come out then clip it off and let the trout go with it, he’ll get rid of it eventually. Finally, try not to keep the trout out of the water for more than 45 to 50 seconds. When you place him back revive him by holding him in the water gently until he kicks away with force. This way the trout will continue to grow and flourish and be there for you when you come back next year.
As always, leave no trace and if you see litter pick it up. Learn also on other Trout Species.
TroutWorld.com has been helping trout fishermen find their way to new and different fishing venues via the internet since 1999.