Brook Trout Basics
A helpful fishing article from Midwest Outdoors!
“I’ve been blessed to visit many Canadian lodges offering mixtures of walleyes, pike, lake trout, grayling, Arctic char, muskies, crappies, sauger, smallmouths and even largemouths. Each has its own blend of fishing challenge, charm and mystique. But one species eluded me for a surprisingly long time: brook trout. The destinations I’d fished simply didn’t have them. Eventually, I was able to correct that omission, and discovered that catching big brook trout was a unique adventure in itself.
Brook trout, often called speckled trout or “specks” by Canadians, tend to live in rugged, often swift-flowing, cold environments. Some of the rivers they inhabit have rugged, standing rapids that can peak as much as 5 to 10 feet high! I’ll relate an intriguing experience that had I with one of those rapids near the end of this feature.
Brook trout also live along the northern coast of Canada, spending part of their lives roaming the shores of the Arctic Ocean, moving into rivers to spawn in late summer. Remote rivers in far northern Ontario host outstanding populations of big sea-run brook trout from Hudson Bay, where you can float the river by day, sleep in a tent at night, and do it all over again the next day. Newfoundland and Labrador offer world-class fishing as well.
Areas of the Great Lakes also host “coaster” brook trout that behave much the same way, running the shorelines of huge bays much of the year, and then moving up rivers to spawn in late summer. The Nipigon area of Ontario is one such locale that provides access to specks while using your own boat, rather than floating remote river sections. Upstream of the first dam in Nipigon, however, you encounter stretches of free-flowing river mixed with lake environment where big brook trout are common. Move far enough upstream and you reach massive Lake Nipigon, famed for big lake trout, pike and, yes, speckled trout.
Spend time at Nipigon, and you can experience catching brook trout in a lake, rather than a river environment. As you might expect, schools of brook trout hang around rocky points, saddles between islands, and at stream mouths flowing into the lake. But what you might not expect is that you can also catch them running cabbage weed beds while fishing for pike.
The best way to explain this behavior is that they pretty much inhabit the environmental niche where you’d find smallmouth bass if the water was warmer. Bu it’s simply too cold to support smallies, and brookies expand into that habitat. They also grow big here, as with other river environments. Two to 4 pounds is common. Four to 6 pounds is possible, with an occasional monster caught beyond that. The Nipigon River produced the world record 14-pounder 100-odd years ago.
Speckled trout are members of the char family and are closely related to lake trout. They prefer water temperatures of 53 degrees and down and will shift location throughout the year to find areas to their liking. They are carnivores as much as they are bug eaters, so you can and should fish for them in a variety of ways and give them what they want to eat at that time.
When fishing rivers with moderate current, all the various forms of fly fishing apply, using streamers, emerging patterns and surface flies. Matching a caddis hatch would be a good strategy if flies are visible on the surface. Otherwise, fish sub-surface variations.
Casting small, straight-spinners is also excellent for specks. As is casting and retrieving jig heads dressed with 3 1/2-inch boot-tail grubs in light, minnow colors.
In still-water lake environments, and in rivers, casting neutral-buoyancy crankbaits like a #10 X-Rap is remarkably effective for big brook trout. Cast them into and along current seams and eddies, and work them with pulls, interspersed with pauses, just like you’d do for smallmouths. In lake environments, cast them around the rocky areas mentioned earlier, but with a twist; from time to time, turn around and cast them away from shore, out over open water, and work them back to the boat. Specks aren’t glued to the bottom and are as likely to suspend near structure.”
The full article can be found here.
Photo Credit: Original Author