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Brook Trout

The brook trout is greenish brown, often iridescent, with light red spots on its sides. It has dark, wavy, worm-like lines on the back and white edges on the fins, including the tail.

Brook trout are native to the eastern United States and Canada. Two strains of brook trout exist, and both are now found in North Carolina. The southern strain, although identical in appearance to the northern strain, is genetically unique and is native to North Carolina. Rainbow and brown trout, two non-native trout species, are thought to outcompete brook trout for habitat and food resources. As a result, wild brook trout are often restricted to small headwater streams. Spawning occurs in the fall.

Young brook trout feed on small aquatic and terrestrial insects. Adults eat a wide variety of aquatic and terrestrial insects, as well as crustaceans, fish and other small vertebrates.

Brown Trout

The brown trout is golden brown to olive brown with yellowish sides. Its back and sides have dark spots encircled with light yellow or white. Some brown trout also have orange or red spots on their sides.

Native to Europe and western Asia, brown trout were introduced to North America in the late 1800s. Brown trout are often reclusive, hanging out close to underwater structure, such as fallen trees and undercut banks. Larger specimens are often caught near dark and after rain storms that result in dingy water. They can survive slightly warmer water temperatures than other trout species. Spawning primarily occurs in the fall.

Young brown trout feed on small aquatic and terrestrial insects. Adult brown trout usually reach larger sizes than brook or rainbow trout. As a result, they often consume larger food items, such as crayfish, mollusks and fish, including other trout.

Rainbow Trout

The rainbow trout is named for the broad, lateral stripe on its sides, which ranges from pink to red. Its back is olive-green, and its belly is whitish with heavy black speckling on all fins and the entire body.

Rainbow trout are native to the Pacific drainages of western North America but have been introduced throughout mountain streams in North Carolina. As with other trout, rainbows inhabit streams, rivers, ponds and lakes with good water quality and temperatures that rarely exceed 70 F. They have a tendency to hang out in faster currents, such as riffles and swift runs, more so than brook or brown trout. Spawning occurs primarily in late winter.
Young rainbow trout feed on small aquatic and terrestrial insects. Adults eat a wide variety of aquatic and terrestrial insects, as well as crustaceans, fish and other small vertebrates.

Smallmouth Bass

The smallmouth bass is most often bronze to brownish green with dark vertical bars on its sides. Unlike the largemouth bass, the smallmouth bass has an upper jaw that extends only to the middle of its reddish eyes. Its dorsal fin is not deeply notched. Three distinct dark bars radiate from the eye.

Smallmouth bass are native to the upper and middle Mississippi River drainage and have been introduced throughout North America. In North Carolina, smallmouth bass often inhabit coolwater streams, lakes and reservoirs in the western part of the state. They are rarely found in small ponds or lakes less than 25 feet deep or in any water that is continuously murky or polluted.

Insects and small fish comprise the bulk of a diet for juvenile smallmouth bass while adults will eat a variety of food items. Smallmouth bass living in lakes feed on shad and crayfish while stream-dwelling smallmouths eat mainly minnows and crayfish.