Brown trout are native to Europe. The species is found in Iceland and on the Northwest coast of Europe, along the Mediterranean and south to India. They have been introduced to appropriate streams all over the world.
The species can live in a higher temperature than most other trouts, and this is probably why they were introduced to North America. They are a succesful and aggressive species who are permanent residents in most of the regions where they have been released.
Adult browns are generally 13 to 16 inches (33-40.6 cm) in length, although old individuals can reach a much larger size. Their bodies are olive brown or green shading to a yellowish white on the belly. The sides of the fish have beautiful red spots surrounded by a pale halo.
When brown trout spawn, the male and female are not monogamous. These trout mate every year, and they are not likely to have the same mate year after year. Occasionally, large males take over a bed already occupied by a smaller, less aggressive trout.
Brown trout mature at about 3 or 4 years of age. They spawn in the fall from October into December. When they spawn, they head into shallow headwater brooks of the river. The female scoops out a hollow on a gravel "redd" where she can lay her eggs. As she releases the eggs on the redd, the male simultaneously releases milt to fertilize them. The pair continues this process until all of the female's eggs are spent. The female then covers the fertilized eggs with sand or gravel for protection. The eggs are then left to develop and hatch the following spring. Browns do not necessarily come back to the same gravel bed to spawn each year, but they come back to the same general area of the river.
Female brown trout invest nutrients in yolk for eggs, but do not provide any care after the eggs are laid. Male brown trout provide no investment in offspring after fertilization.
When brown trout spawn, the male and female are not monogamous. These trout mate every year, and they are not likely to have the same mate year after year. Occasionally, large males take over a bed already occupied by a smaller, less aggressive trout. After spawning, browns move rapidly downstream to wintering areas. Populations are heavily dependent on redd density. The ideal redd site for brown trout to reproduce is characterized by small substrate particles averaging .5 inches (1.2 cm) in diameter, a water velocity of 7 inches (18 cm)/second, and a depth of about one foot (30 cm). Brown trout are most active in the early morning and evening and when the water temperatures are near 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13°C). During the day, or times when they are not feeding, large browns seek refuge in slow water with ample cover. The most common types of cover are overhang, submerged logs or vegetation, or deep water. They will not move from these sites except to feed and will return when they are finished.
Smaller brown trout feed primarily on insects. The most important insects vary with the season but the bulk of them are mayflies, caddisflies, midges or terrestrial insects. Browns in smaller streams are also dependent on food washed from the banks. Small browns select an area for feeding in a drift and do not move from it until a predator is introduced. This foraging site is characterized by a good view of the drift near refuge sites such as deep water or complex structure. Small browns never feed immediately upstream of a larger fish. Large browns' diets are more diverse than that of younger browns. Smaller trout account for 80% of the large brown's diet. The remaining diet consists of large aquatic insects such as Hexagania and Brown Drake (Ephemera simulans) mayflies and larger species of caddisflies (Trichoptera), crustaceans, snails, amphibians, and food washed from the bank. Also, the feeding habits of large browns is primarily nocturnal. They eat whatever is in the immediate area, preferably about 4 inches from the stream's floor in riffles, pools, or eddies. In contrast to young browns, large brown trout do not sit and wait for food, they hunt it actively.
The main economic benefit of brown trout is the sport of fishing for the species. Many people pursue the sport fishing and some flyfish for browns. Many fisherman donate money to conservation groups to keep the sport alive. Also, browns make a delicious meal.
When introduced outside their native range, brown trout compete with and prey upon native trout and other fish and amphibian species. Introduction of brown trout has been associated with declines in native brook trout in the eastern U.S. and frog species in the west. In some locations, brown trout may act as a prey base for parasitic sea lampreys (Petromyzon marinus). This may increase lamprey pressure on other native species. Introductions of brown trout may also bring fish diseases that can attack native species as well.
Brown trout are an abundant and widespread species, and so are not considered in need of special conservation efforts to preserve the species as a whole. Since they are a popular game fish, they are often protected by local fishing regulations.
Some brown trout have been reported to reach weights of up to thirty pounds (13.6 kg) and lengths of three feet (91 cm).
Andrew Idema (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.
living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.
living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.
living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.
living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
an animal that mainly eats meat
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
having a worldwide distribution. Found on all continents (except maybe Antarctica) and in all biogeographic provinces; or in all the major oceans (Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific.
active at dawn and dusk
humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.
animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature
fertilization takes place outside the female's body
union of egg and spermatozoan
A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.
mainly lives in water that is not salty.
having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.
An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.
referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.
makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
specialized for swimming
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.
reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.
an animal that mainly eats fish
the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.
breeding is confined to a particular season
offspring are all produced in a single group (litter, clutch, etc.), after which the parent usually dies. Semelparous organisms often only live through a single season/year (or other periodic change in conditions) but may live for many seasons. In both cases reproduction occurs as a single investment of energy in offspring, with no future chance for investment in reproduction.
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
uses touch to communicate
that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).
uses sight to communicate
animal constituent of plankton; mainly small crustaceans and fish larvae. (Compare to phytoplankton.)
Eddy, Samuel. Northern Fishes, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1974.
Lanham, Url. The Fishes, New York, Columbia University Press, 1962.
Smith, C. Lavelt. Fish Watching, Ithaca, Comstock Publishing associates, 1994.