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Rather, like the pheasant and rainbow trout, wildlife managers we're probably saying something more like: "The explorers brought people to settle the West, it's our job to bring new wildlife the West. It's wildlife management destiny."
Some would argue neither people nor brookies was a good idea in the Rockies. But the two actually make a pretty good combination. Especially for the youngsters that reel in a squaretails as the first fish of their angling careers.
That's why the introduction of brook trout was a great day for kids. And for parents. And for everyone else who likes to catch and eat fish.
For the last 114 years, brook trout have found Wyoming's cold, clean water to be good habitat. The fish took to mountain beaver ponds across the state with more zeal than a black Lab would on a hot day. And high mountain lakes? No problem, for these imports. They do a good job of making a living in the small streams in between, too.
But they don't do well in either rivers or big reservoirs. Why should they? After all, they're brook trout. But really, there's probably a few reasons, like the water is often warmer and competition from other fish. Brookies do best when they're the only team on the field.
Often these fish do too well. Many times they overpopulate a high country lake or small stream. They are kind of the mice or English sparrow of the water world; they're really good at making little ones. One reason is because brook trout spawn in fall, when the creeks generally flow low and clear and high water is less likely to wash out the redd or spawning beds. Another is that sometimes introduced species, like carp and starlings, just do extra well because they do not have the predators, disease and other natural checks of their homeland.
When brook trout do too well, they are all just a bunch of runts. None of them get enough to eat, so none of them get very big. That's why you can creel 16 of them in Wyoming, providing no more than six are over 8 inches. (A few lakes have a special limit that varies from that, so always check the fishing regulations before casting into a new water.) And brook trout assist in their depopulation by hitting most everything. Worms, spinners, salmon eggs and some of the goofiest artificial flies work.
What can be challenging with brook trout is getting the bait to them. Beaver ponds are frequently lined with willows that get in way of flycasting. Often in the summer, it is hard to keep the bait out of the algae or ˜moss' in beaver ponds. Both conditions make the fly and bubble rig on a spinning rod very valuable. The bright red Royal Coachman and Royal Wulff have been the classic brookie flies over the years. But most any fly will work.
In small streams and beaver ponds you may have to stalk brookies as carefully as elk. The fish get a little spooky from otters, kingfishers and other predators looking for a meal. Brookies in this habitat will scurry for cover when a shadow hits the water. So it is a good idea to have the sun in your face when approaching the water and maybe even launching casts well before reaching shoreline.
Although the survey has been informal, over the years I've asked my fishing buddies: "What's the best eating trout?" At least four of five say "Brookies!" The ones who said something else haven't unhooked, gutted and flipped a brookie in the skillet in one motion. Now there's some super eating.
For one of the most beautiful sights on this planet, catch a brookie in October. Their blue-rimmed red spots are extra bright during breeding season. That makes the white on their fins extra vibrant. The bellies of spawning males turn orange. A guy that says spawning brookies aren't one of the prettiest creatures on earth, probably doesn't like sunsets, puppies or blue grouse in the skillet.
Prior to 1896, that beauty was restricted to eastern North America. Labrador to northern Georgia and across the Midwest to northeast Iowa was the brookie's native range.
In Wyoming, the beaver ponds of the Snowy Range and Bighorns and the lakes of the Wind River Range are famed for their brook trout. For specific spots, call the nearest G&F regional office.
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