Brook Trout Vs Brown Trout: 5 Important Differences

Telling these two species apart can be confusing, especially to someone who has zero knowledge of fish. However, if you are a seasoned fisherman, telling the difference between the two is as easy as telling your right hand from your left. So, what are the main differences between a brown trout and a brook trout?

Brook trout have vivid wormlike decorations on the side of their back. Both their lower fins and tails are bordered with white coloring. Brown trout, on the other hand, is more on the plain side. The main outstanding feature about them is their larger size, whereas the brook trout are smaller. 

You need to know the trout joint to catch your desired monster of the day. Both trouts are highly adaptable, but you are not likely to find them clustered together in a particular habitat. They cannot co-exist in one location because one feeds on the other.

Brook trouts are so versatile and they can easily find a home in any cold water body except the ones with slow currents. They love lying in wait for their prey to swim their way. Don’t be surprised if you find them in ponds, creeks, and even in the oceans. For as long as the water is not too fast or slow, then they’ve found a home.

On the other hand, brown trout are particularly choosy with their habitat. These ones are all about clarity and cover. They thrive best in freshwater with debris, rocks, and vegetation to hold their cover. For some reason, they like to hide, and we will find out why.

Listed below are the major distinguishing differences between brook trout and brown trout. This article also highlights other exciting facts you must know about them.

How Can You Tell the Difference Between a Brook and a Brown Trout?

How Can You Tell the Difference Between a Brook and a Brown Trout

In as much as these two look pretty similar, they are as different as a fish is from a snake. But to be able to tell these distinct similarities apart, you ought to have an experienced eye. Here are a few easy ways that can help you to tell them apart.

The Spots

The first thing that will probably catch your eye when you see a trout are the beautiful spots on the side of their plane bodies. A brook trout will have lighter spots on the side of their bodies. These spots are mostly pink in color with blue halos around them.

On the other hand, if you catch the ones with darker spots, then you have caught yourself a brown trout. They mostly have red and black coloring with white halos around them. Apart from that, brown trout spots do not form any distinctive patterns since they are mostly uneven

Patterns and Body Colorations

The brook trout commonly have grey and green colorings with worm-like markings. These markings form very distinctive patterns on their backs. Besides that, their bellies have vivid orange colorations, which become more intense towards the spawning season in the fall.

The orange in the brown trout bellies is far less prominent. It is usually more yellow as compared to the brook trout. Their brown color mostly varies depending on the habitat. For example, a brown trout in a lake will have more vivid colors compared to the ones in a brook trout.

The Tail and the Fins

It seems like the brook trout are the most colorful patterned ones. What, with the white edgings on both their fins and under their tails? Their sleek tails are also spangled with impressive splotches and spots.

The brown brooks, on the other hand, are more reserved and laid back, especially with patterns and prominent colorings. Their tails and fins are mostly plain with occasional spots. Maybe they are meant to break the plain monotony. Or maybe they are not.

The Species

Brook trout is a species of freshwater fish. They belong to char genius, and it is the state fish of nine US states. But that is beside the point. This species is of the Salmon family Salmonidae. Brook trout are known to have originated from North-Eastern America and Canada before they spread to other places.

Brown trout, on the other hand, is a species of Salmonid fish family. This species is mostly from European water bodies. Unlike their counterparts which only thrive in cold water, they have been known to migrate and to highly adapt to different water temperatures.

Average Size

Brook trout mostly spawn during fall and by the summer, the baby brooks are normally between 7-10 cm long. This is very impressive and progressive growth. Their adult’s length ranges between 6-15 inches long enough for their lifespan of three years.

The brook trout are even longer and larger. They grow as long as 24 inches, with the shortest being 8 inches long. Depending on their size and living conditions, these trout can live up to 5 years. They generally have greater longevity, with some reaching their age in excess of 10 years.

Do Brown Trout Eat Brook Trouts?

Larger brown trout feed on the smaller brook trout. This happens because as the fish grows older, they become aquatic predators of other fish. The brown trout are known to grow much longer and bigger than the brook trout. This makes smaller trout an easy target.

Over time, brown trout have been referred to as the wiliest and wariest trout in the river. This applies both to their hunting and hunted situation. Their hiding skills are well-sharpened, and it benefits them both ways. These trout start their lives by feeding on the basic invertebrates, but as their hunting skills awaken, their diet changes as well.

This is where their aquatic hunting skills shift focus, and they start with the smaller brook trout. Perhaps it is because the brook trout hiding skills aren’t as shrewd. But either way, these trout will still feed on other suckers, minnows, and sculpins.

How Many Brown Trout Are There?

There are currently no recorded subspecies of brown trout. However, three basic known morphs make up this species. This means that the species has a distinct behavioral population.

There is a species that lives in fresh rivers, and there is another found only in the lake population. There are also those in the anadromous form, which is the third morph. Anadromous means that the fish were originally in freshwater before they started living in saltwater.

It is worth noting that the anadromous migrants are genetically identical to the resident fish in the river. This is a science puzzle that is yet to be solved. There are some brown trout that inhabit nutrient-poor water bodies, yet they still thrive. A good example is Ferox. There is also the Gillaroo which feeds on snails whose species is still a conflict.

Is a Brook Trout Really a Trout?

Brook trout are actually not trout as most people know them. They are a type of char of the Salmon family from Eastern North America and Canada. This species of fish is a cold-water fresh fish. They are different genera from brown trout.

Unlike other trout, brook trout have smaller scales. They also have toothed vomer bone in the mouth rooftop, and they spawn later in the season. This is very unlike other trout which actively hunt while the brownies hatch.

It is evident that brook trout and brown trout cannot coexist in one habitat. Brook trout have the disadvantage of both size and intolerance to different water conditions. These make their counterparts thrive and live better over them.

What Does a Brook Trout Feed On?

Like most other fish, Brook trout are opportunistic in nature. Their young ones mostly feed on small plankton but as they grow, they progress to aquatic insects in their nymphal stage. They mostly stick to this diet until they are adults.

Once they develop into adulthood, brook trout start feeding on aquatic organisms that can sustain their mature bodies. Some of their feeds include leeches, minnows, crayfish, and even amphibians. They, however, love the aquatic insects during the early seasons.

Their feeding habits depend on different factors which means that diet is not so consistent. For example, during the early seasons, most brook trout feed on insects just as mentioned earlier. The weather and time of the day can also affect their diet pattern. Brook trout mostly hunt at dawn or at the dusk. Perhaps that is why they are best fished at these times of the day.


If you want to be a seasoned trout fisher, there is definitely a lot to learn about trout. It is both fun and illuminating to familiarize yourself with these sleek beautiful ‘aquaplanes.’ Yes, they do look like decorated airplanes.

The most exciting part about it is, you don’t have to learn all the scientific names and the trout are true game fish. They are also true to the game. It is truly a ton of fun luring them to take the bait.

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