Brook trout are the fish of beautiful places. They require cold, clean, oxygen-rich water to thrive, and a relatively undisturbed environment to reproduce. With a preference for clear, spring-fed lakes and stone-bottom streams, it's fair to assume that the presence of brook trout is a good indicator of a healthy body of water.
They are aggressive predators that will sometimes out-compete native fish species for food resources. Their diet consists mostly of larval/adult aquatic insects such as stoneflies, caddisflies and mayflies, as well as terrestrial insects like grasshoppers, beetles and spiders. Their preferred menu goes on to include minnows, worms and frogs. Larger brook trout will sometimes even devour small rodents swimming across the water surface.
A Short History of Brook Trout Stocking in the Prairies
There are no native brook trout in Saskatchewan or Manitoba, with the exception of a few rivers in the sub-Arctic region of north-eastern Manitoba. The fish species was first introduced in Saskatchewan in 1933 as a recreational angling species that would help take pressure off of native fish stocks. From the work of Saskatchewan and Manitoba's respective fish hatcheries, brook trout are now found in over 60 lakes and streams across the two provinces with some lakes and streams supporting naturally reproducing populations.
How to fish for brook trout
Spin Casting or Fly Fishing?
Anglers can be very divisive on whether spin casting or fly fishing works best for catching trout, but either method can out-fish the other on the right day. Here are a few tips to help you decide what to tie on your line:
Light tackle, small, flashy, colourful — small spoons, spinners or jigs. Nightcrawlers are a favourite bait, but brook trout tend to hit these flashy types of lures out of territorial aggression rather than hunger.
Match the hatch — try imitation stonefly, caddisfly and mayfly nymphs when fish are not feeding on the surface. A leech or minnow imitation such as a woolly bugger is worth a try in any season, lake or stream.
Quick Tips on Stream Fishing for trout
Stream-run brook trout have distinct and observable behaviours that make catching them feel more strategic and a lot of fun. Lake fishing also requires careful strategy, but stream fishing tends to use the senses of a good angler as well as a good hunter.
Know where to cast:
Trout prefer cold, deep pools and will avoid shallow riffles in broad sunlight. Look for shaded overhangs and river bends. Trout will also seek shelter under large rocks and fallen trees. Always cast from downstream.
Since trout prefer deeper pools, you may want to add a bit of weight to your line so that your lure will present itself to fish near the river bottom or hiding under rocks. Try using split shot roughly six inches above your lure.
Trout have a reputation for keen eyesight. When feeding, their eyes are fixed on the water surface, looking for flies or unlucky grasshoppers to float by. Trout also spook easily, requiring a slow and quiet approach. Casting from downstream works to your advantage since they must face upstream to swim and keep their place against the current.
Change with the seasons:
Weather can affect the bite in more than a few ways. Brook trout may travel upstream or downstream to reach their preferred water temperature between 13 and 16°C. During the fall, they seek shallow gravel areas near groundwater aquifers to produce spawning beds. Take note of the flies you see and match your lure with the right imitation.