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New Jersey freshwater fish identification


Family Slamonidae

Trout are part of the salmon family which characteristically have many small cycloid scales, a lateral line, 1 dorsal

fin plus an adipose fin, abdominal pelvic fins, and no spines in the fins. All trout live in fresh water or migrate to

fresh water to spawn. Many trout hybridize with other species present making identification difficult. The only

trout native to New Jersey is the brook trout, and the brook trout produced in hatcheries are different than those

native to New Jersey waters. Young trout have color patterns and characteristics different from those of adults

of the same species. All New Jersey Trout are of the genus Salvelinus except for Rainbow trout which are of the

genus Oncorhynchus.

Lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) reach around 50 inches in length and have a deeply forked caudal fin. They

have many small bean shaped cream or yellow spots on their dark green to gray head, body and fins. The reddish

lower fins have narrow white edges. Breeding males have a dark stripe along the side. A hybrid between a Lake

trout and a Brook trout is called a Splake. Carl Bird caught the NJ record fish of 24 Lbs 14 Oz. in 1994 in the

Round Valley Reservoir. Here's a picture of that record Laker.

Brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) grow to 28 inches in length and have a nearly straight edged or only slightly

forked caudal fin. They have light green or cream colored wavy lines or blotches on the back and dorsal fin that

are broken into spots on the sides; with blue "halos" around pink or red spots. Breeding males are brilliant orange

or red below with a blackish belly. Some hatchery stocks vary so much the trout they produce can sometimes be

considered distinct subspecies. The NJ record Brook trout of 7 Lbs. 3 Oz. was caught by Andrew DuJack in 1995

in the Rockaway River. Here's a picture of that fish.

Brown trout (Salmo trutta) grow to over 40 inches and have a caudal fin with a straight edge. They have red and

black spots on the head and body with many spots on the gill covers. In streams they are olive to dark brown on

top, silver with yellow-brown on the sides and white to yellow below. They are silvery overall, sometimes with X

marks near the top of fish living in large lakes. Breeding males have a hooked lower jaw and a rounded anal fin. In

1995, Lenny Saccente caught the NJ record of 21 Lbs. 6 Oz. in the Round Valley Reservoir. Here's a picture

of that monster.

Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) grow to 45 inches, and the sea-run form are called Steelhead. They have

small, irregular black spots on the back and fins, with radiating rows of spots on the caudal fin. The colors from

fish to fish vary, but are normally steel-blue, yellow-green or brow on top and silver to pale yellow-green below.

Spawning and stream dwelling fish have strong dark colors; lake fish are lighter and silvery. Rainbow trout can

normally survive spawning. The NJ record of 13 Lbs. 0 Oz. was caught in Lake Hopatcong by Gene Rutkoski in


Be sure to check regulations when fishing for trout as they vary from place to place.

questions about fish terminology? GO TO: FISH BODY CHARTS




By Joe M. Cianci. See main page for list of sources. Send E mail to me at Comments welcome!