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Meet Brook Trout

Brook trout are native to Michigan's waters, and they were designated the state fish of Michigan in 1988. They have long, streamlined bodies with coloring on the back ranging from olive to blue-gray to black and wormlike markings and red spots along the sides. Their lower fins are orange with black and white trim on the front edges. In males, the underbelly is orange but, come spawning season, it turns bright red. As a watercolor artists, it's hard to resist painting these colorful native fish. Brook trout live in cold spring fed streams and lakes and in the Great Lakes. Brook trout living in streams and lakes generally grow to about 9 inches in length, but they can get much bigger. The largest brook trout ever landed in Michigan was caught in 1996 by an ice fisherman on Clear Lake in Houghton County. It weighed 10 pounds and was 28 inches in length.

Brook trout are voracious feeders. They prefer mayflies, stoneflies, and other aquatic insects, but will feed on whatever is available, such as zooplankton, crustaceans, worms, and fish. They can be caught using many different baits and lures, including worms, crickets, grasshoppers, wet and dry flies, spoons, and spinners. The Black River, in the northeastern Lower Peninsula, is said to be the best brook trout stream in Michigan, but they also inhabit most other trout streams in the state. Getting to them is the hard part. They prefer the wild, hard- to-reach headwaters accessible only by foot where the water is pure and cold.

Having fished for brook trout often in the state of Michigan, I can attest to the Black River's reputation but I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Pigeon River right next door to the Black River and accessible via the Pigeon River Country State Forest in Northeastern Michigan. This area is the largest state forest in the lower peninsula of Michigan and there are numerous well trod trails to both rivers near campgrounds and roads. There are also exceptional Brook trout fishing spots a little further in if you're willing to hike a bit. My dog and I hiked 7 miles along the river's edge one year and caught a lot of these lovely smaller native trout.

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