The cold weather and high water which has marked the start of this year’s fishing season haven’t kept local anglers off the water. A few anglers are picking up a trout here and there but I think water temperature will have to warm up before the fishing improves. Many of the best catches were of brown trout. This is no surprise when you consider how well brown trout have adapted to our waters.
Brown Trout, known scientifically as Salmo trutta, are not native to North America. Their natural range is Europe. First introduced to Nova Scotia in 1923, in the Milford Haven River of Guysborough County, brown trout have become well established in several areas of Nova Scotia, but probably nowhere better than in the rivers along the Northumberland Strait. Since the first fish stocks which were imported from Europe often came from Germany early anglers often referred to them as German browns. Later stocks came from Loch Leven in Scotland so some strains were referred to as Loch Leven trout.
As their name suggests, brown trout are brown or golden brown in colour. They grow rapidly, and can reach some impressive sizes. In Europe fish up to 68 pounds have been caught while a sea run brown trout weighing 28 pounds was caught in Witless Bay, Newfoundland in 1962.Locally it is fairly common for a few 5 pounders to be caught every year and I have seen some 10 pounders come out of the Bras d’Or Lakes. The current Nova Scotia record brown is an 18.4 pound fish caught in the Mira River in 2007.
Brown trout are generally found in the same habitats as brook trout but, due to their larger size and their ability to tolerate higher water temperatures, they often displace brook trout from their range. Brown trout tend to seek out deep holes under banks and overhanging trees or anywhere there is some cover. These fish lie low during the day and become active at night. Fishing them at dusk can be very productive, and exciting.
Anglers living in Pictou County are fortunate in having a wide selection of brown trout rivers to choose from. These include River John, the West and East as well as French and Barneys Rivers, all of which have sea run populations of brown trout which makes for fast action during the annual run. These sea run fish have spent several seasons feeding in the food rich coastal areas and can reach some impressive sizes. Some of these rivers have delayed openings so check the current regulations before heading out.
Fishing for brown trout can sometimes make for challenging angling. Early in the season spinning gear with worms or minnows can be very successful. Later on in the summer, when water levels drop, they can be very selective in what they eat. The exception is in the evening when the big browns go on the prowl. Then a big muddler minnow or mouse imitation can trigger some violent strikes.
Don MacLean is an outdoor writer and biologist who lives in Pictou County.