• Mayfly Larvae
  • Brown trout
  • Brook Trout for dinner

Brook Trout in Switzerland

Little did I know that brook trout also exist in the Jura mountains.


Swiss Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis)

Switzerland features a wide variety of salmonids. Not all of them are native to Switzerland, but some were introduced. For instance, the brook trout originally came from North America. This species has a very colourful display with its distinctive marbled pattern (called vermiculation) across the flanks and back of the fish. Moreover, the fins at the bottom (pectoral, pelvic and anal fins) show white rays, which are a striking contrast to the orange brownish belly. Inhabiting cold oxygen rich rivers and creeks (as well as mountain lakes), they are primarily found in the waters of higher altitude such as the Swiss Alps. Given the short summers at this height, this fish voraciously attacks large fly patterns. For example, during the Firebelly Guiding brook trout feasted on Chernobyl ants about a quarter of their own size. Given that this species is non-native to Switzerland, practicing catch-and-release with this fish is not allowed.

Brook trout feature a distinctive marbled pattern (called vermiculation) across the flanks and back
Brook trout feature a distinctive marbled pattern (called vermiculation) across the flanks and back

Fly Fishing with Jan

As pointed out above, brook trout primarily inhabit waters at a high altitude. However, on a recent adventure with my mate Jan, we came across brook trout in the Jura mountains.

A well-presented Black widow did the trick on this brown trout as well as the brookie
A well-presented Black widow did the trick on this brown trout as well as the brookie

Brook Trout surprise

Visiting a small creek in the Jura mountains, we were chasing brown trout with heavy flies such as the Black Widow nymph. After Jan had fished a promising hole for some time, I had my turn at it. On the first cast (which landed in the water), I immediately felt resistance when the fly approached a boulder. At the moment the fish took to the air, I recognized its colourful appearance and was stunned by the fact that brook trout exist in the Jura mountains.

Pay attention to the retracted gill-plate as well as the stump head of the brookie
Pay attention to the retracted gill-plate as well as the stump head of the brookie

Stocked fish

On closer inspection, I discovered a shortened gill plates as well as a rather blunt head. The visible gills (red) were a clear indication that this fish was stocked to quite some extent. Usually, the vulnerable gills are fully covered by the plate in order to protect them. Due to the regulations, we took this fish home for dinner. Read more about sustainable consumption of fish here.

The white orange fins make for an colourful appearance
The white orange fins make for an colourful appearance

Remaining Day

The remaining day, Jan and I proceeded upstream with few more fish to the net. Nonetheless, it was a memorable fishing trip. In particular due to catching a species, which I did not know existed in the Jura mountains.

4 Responses

  1. Rob Mellors

    I presume UK waters are too warm for Brook Trout. I’ve never seen any here. Did it taste nice Tom? I’m always rather disappointed in Brown Trout myself. It’s Rainbow for me everytime.

    • Tom

      Hi Rob
      It seems like there are certain waters in the UK which were stocked with brook trout at some point. Check out this map:
      https://species.nbnatlas.org/species/NHMSYS0000544752
      It was delicious, but I’m not sure whether I would be able to distinguish it from brown trout by taste. I might have to do a blind test.
      All the best,
      Tom

  2. Jim Musselman

    Hi, Tom.
    You mentioned that not all salmonides found in Switzerland are natives. Can you help me find which ones are native to Switzerland? I knew that brook trout are native to the northeastern US where I grew up. And in California where I live now, brown trout are called “German browns” so I know they are native to Germany, but are they native to Switzerland too? And when I say Swiss natives, I’m hoping to find which ones were there historically — way, way back. I searched with Google and your site was the only one that mentioned the subject of salmonides native to Switzerland. I hope you can help!

    • Tom

      Hey Jim
      Thanks for you comment and glad you are interested in this topic. As far as I’m concerned, there are several native salmonides in Switzerland such as the brown trout, grayling and the atlantic salmon. The latter one, we screwed up by using hydropower, but the former two are still present. There are probably further species that I am not aware of such as sub-species of brown trout (see Zebra trout in the Doubs or Marmorata in Ticino). However, rainbow trout, brook trout and namaycush are all non-native and were introduced in the last 200 years. Therefore, they have the status of being non-native and thus are not protected.
      I hope this helps and I wish you tight lines.
      Cheers
      Tom

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