Muskegon river Rainbow trout
Identifying characteristics: (Non-Native Fish) Rainbow trout from Lake Michigan have an elongated and slightly compressed body, a squared tail covered with spots, 12 or less rays in the anal fin, and the inside of the mouth white. There are generally small spots on the top of the head and back above the lateral line, including the dorsal and adipose fins. Body color is variable, with the back being darker, ranging from steel blue to green to almost brown; the cheek and sides are silvery, occasionally with a pink to red lateral stripe; and the bottom or belly is silvery white.
Although not native to Michigan, rainbow trout have become one of the state’s favorite sport fish. From the inland lakes and streams to the Great Lakes, rainbows provide countless hours of angling enjoyment to all manner of fishermen.
Native to the Pacific watershed, rainbow trout came to Michigan when eggs were imported from California in 1876. First stocked in the Au Sable River, then four years later in the Lake Michigan watershed, rainbows can now be found in all corners of the state. Large specimens that inhabit the Great Lakes but travel inland to spawn in streams have come to be called steelhead.
Like any trout, stream rainbows can be caught by a variety of techniques; live bait, artificial lures and flies all produce. In large lakes, rainbows can be caught by trolling or by fishing with bait or jigging through the ice in winter. Though most commonly associated with clear-water lakes in northern Michigan, rainbow trout have been successfully stocked into a number of southern Michigan lakes as well, where they provide a unique fishery. Fishing after dark at the thermocline — the depth at which there is a major change in temperature — with live bait, salmon eggs or corn is the principle technique.
Identifying characteristics: (Non-Native Fish) Two dorsal fins including one adipose fin, broad square tongue with 11-12 large teeth, light pectoral fins, square tail, 9-10 rays in the anal fin.
Brown trout is something of a misnomer for many Great Lakes members of this species, since lake-run browns are predominately silver in color. In addition, the body spots, so characteristic of their stream-dwelling cousins, are often obscured in lake-dwellers.
Brown trout are close relative of the Atlantic salmon, and also were brought to North American waters as exotics. These natives of Europe and western Asia were introduced into New York and Michigan waters in 1883. Brown trout have thrived in their new home, and have become firmly established in all of our upper Great Lakes waters.
Lake dwelling brown trout are a wary lot. They hide in shallow water weed beds and rocky, boulder-strewn areas, and prefer a water temperature of 65-75 degrees F. Since brown trout spawn in tributary streams in September and October, they begin to take up residence near stream outlets in spring and early summer. After ascending a particular stream, brown trout spawners choose shallow, gravelly or rocky areas. The female creates a shallow depression (redd) in the gravel, in which the spawning fish deposit the eggs and sperm. When the process is completed, the female covers the redd with gravel. The average lake run adult weighs 8 pounds, although individuals can grow to be much larger. Young browns are preyed upon by larger fish and by predatory birds such as mergansers. The diet of adult brown trout includes insects and their larvae, crustaceans, mollusks, amphibians, small rodents and other fish. They enjoy a rather long life-span, it appears, since researchers have observed them at up to 13 years of age.