Family overview: The trout and salmon family includes great game fish like trout, salmon, chars and grayling, as well as food and baitfishes like whitefish and ciscoes. The trout and salmon family is large. It is native to cool and cold streams and lakes throughout Europe, northern Asia and North America, and reaches as far south as northwest Mexico and extreme northern Africa. One family member, the Arctic char, is the freshwater fish that occurs the farthest north. Because of their popularity for sport and commercial fishing, this family has been stocked in waters worldwide and is now found on nearly every continent. Many trout that anglers catch in Pennsylvania are the result of the stocking of hatchery-raised fish. However, where streams are cold and clean enough, with proper spawning habitat, Pennsylvania also has a wealth of reproducing populations of wild trout.
In Pennsylvania, the trout and salmon family includes three species of the genus Coregonus, all native and found in Lake Erie–the rare longjaw cisco, the cisco or lake herring, and the lake whitefish–silvery well-scaled fishes with deeply forked tails. The whitefish is currently an important commercial species. It has rebounded with reductions in the numbers of sea lampreys and rainbow smelt. Rainbow smelt were believed to prey on whitefish eggs and young. Other members of the trout family native to Pennsylvania, not introduced, are chars, of the genus Salvelinus, the brook trout and the lake trout.
The brown trout, native to Eurasia, is stocked in the state and has established itself in the wild here. The Atlantic salmon, also of the genus Salmo, is native to the North Atlantic Ocean and its tributaries. It is anadromous–the Atlantic salmon spends its adult life in salt water and returns to freshwater streams to spawn. A landlocked form of the Atlantic salmon, which lives its entire life in fresh water, was stocked in Harvey’s Lake, Luzerne County, and in Raystown Lake, Huntingdon County.
Trout and salmon are not school fish. Stream trout eat mostly adult and immature aquatic insects. They also eat terrestrial insects that fall onto the water, crayfish and other freshwater crustaceans. They also eat fish, especially as they grow larger. Trout feed most readily when water temperatures are in the 50s and 60s. They also feed in the winter and are popular with ice anglers.
In the early part of the 20th century and late 1800s, Pennsylvania streams were stocked extensively with trout, with varied success. Wild brook and brown trout are now widespread. Reproducing populations of rainbow trout are in a few scattered streams in the state. In the hatchery, trout strains were later developed that responded better to artificial culture. They were disease-resistant and spawned at times other than their natural times of the year. Manipulative fish culture also produced hybrids and genetic variations of trout as extras for anglers, including the splake (lake trout x brook trout), tiger trout (brown trout x brook trout), and the palomino trout (golden rainbow trout x rainbow trout).
Gallery of Pennsylvania Fishes Chapter 15