About the Fish We Chase / "Trout" Only by Name (Char)

Bull Trout - (source: Wikipedia) The bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) is a char of the family Salmonidae native to northwestern North America. Historically, S. confluentus has been known as the "Dolly Varden" (S. malma), but was reclassified as a separate species in 1980. Bull trout are listed as a threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (1998) and as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Like other species of char, the fins of a bull trout have white leading edges. Its head and mouth are unusually large for salmonids, giving it its name. Bull trout have been recorded measuring up to 41 in in length and weighing 32 lbs. Bull trout may be either migratory, moving throughout large river systems, lakes, and the ocean, or they may be resident, remaining in the same stream their entire lives. Migratory bull trout are typically much larger than resident bull trout, which rarely exceed 4.4 lbs. Bull trout can be differentiated from brook trout (S. fontinalis) by the absence of distinct spots on the dorsal fin, as well as yellow, orange, or salmon-colored spots on the back as opposed to red spots with blue halos on the brook trout. Bull trout lack the deeply forked tail fin of lake trout (S. namaycush, another char).

S. confluentus is found in the cold, clear waters of the high mountains and coastal rivers of northwestern North America, including Yukon, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and western Montana, as well as the Jarbidge River of northern Nevada. A population of bull trout exists east of the Continental Divide in Alberta, where it is the provincial fish. The historical range of bull trout also included northern California, but they are likely extirpated.

Bull trout have exacting habitat demands, requiring water temperatures generally below 55 °F , clean gravel beds, deep pools, complex cover such as snags and cut banks, and large systems of interconnected waterways to accommodate spawning migrations. Thus, they favor the deep pools of cold lakes and large rivers, as well as high, cold mountain headwaters. Bull trout may be anadromous in coastal rivers, and individual bull trout have been found to have migrated from one coastal river to another by the ocean.

For more information:

Montana Field Guide

Bull Trout Facts by US Fish & Wildlife Service

Image:US National Park Service


Lake trout -  (Salvelinus namaycush) is a freshwater char living mainly in lakes in northern North America. Other names for it include mackinaw, namaycush, lake char (or charr), touladi, togue, and grey trout. In Lake Superior, it can also be variously known as siscowet, paperbelly and lean. The lake trout is prized both as a game fish and as a food fish.

From a zoogeographical perspective, lake trout have a relatively narrow distribution. They are native only to the northern parts of North America, principally Canada, but also Alaska and, to some extent, the northeastern United States. Lake trout have been widely introduced into non-native waters in North America and into many other parts of the world, mainly Europe, but also into South America and certain parts of Asia. Although lake trout were introduced into Yellowstone National Park's Shoshone, Lewis and Heart lakes legally in the 1890s, they were illegally or accidentally introduced into Yellowstone Lake in the 1980s where they are now considered invasive.

Lake trout are the largest of the chars; the record weighed almost 102 pounds (netted) with a length of 50 inches , and 15–40-pound fish are not uncommon. The average length is 24–36 inches . The largest caught on a rod and reel according to the IGFA was 72 pounds , caught in Great Bear Lake in 1995 with a length of 59 inches .There are three subspecies of lake trout. There is the common lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush namaycush), the siscowet lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush siscowet), and the less common rush lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush huronicus). 

source: Wikipedia

image: Wikipedia

The Dolly Varden trout (Salvelinus malma) is a species of salmonid native to cold-water tributaries of the Pacific Ocean in Asia and North America. It is in the genus Salvelinus of true chars, which includes 51 recognized species, the most prominent being the brooklake and bull trout, as well as Arctic char. Although many populations are semi-anadromous, fluvial (found in rivers) and lacustrine (lake) populations occur throughout its range. It is considered by taxonomists as part of the Salvelinus alpinus or Arctic char complex, as many populations of bull trout, Dolly Varden trout and Arctic char overlap. In North America, two subspecies of Dolly Varden are distinguished, the Northern Dolly Varden (S. m. malma) of the Arctic drainages and the Southern Dolly Varden (S. m. lordi) of the Pacific drainages.

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image: US Fish & Wildlife Service


The splake or slake (Salvelinus namaycush x Salvelinus fontinalis) is a hybrid of two fish species resulting from the crossing of a male brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) and a female lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush). The name itself is a portmanteau of speckled trout (another name for brook trout) and lake trout, and may have been used to describe such hybrids as early as the 1880s. Hybrids of the male lake trout with the female brook trout (the so-called "brookinaw") have also been produced, but are not as successful. In some locales, the fish is referred to as the wendigo. 

The fish possesses characteristics of both parent species. Splake exhibit higher growth rates than either parent species and can attain 18 in. in length only two years after being planted as fingerlings (i.e., at 2½ years of age). By way of contrast, lacustrine brook trout would approach 10 in. in length at a similar age and similarly aged lake trout would be expected to be less than 16 in long.


Splake are considered "easier to catch" than other salmonids and often live longer and fare better in certain situations. Hence, splake are well suited for stocking in a variety of coldwater lakes and ponds. The maximum size is about 20 lb, but fish over 9 lb. are rare and are considered trophies.

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image: huntfishmanitoba.ca