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Nebraska’s trout species

Nebraska is home to four trout species — brook, brown, rainbow and cutthroat. Learn more about each of these and find tips for identifying them in the tabs below.

Brook

The brook trout requires cold (less than 70 degrees), well-oxygenated water. The front edge of the lower fins are lined in white and the tail fin is slightly forked. The midsection of a brook trout’s sides has a few large black and red spots, while the back has mottled or “wormy” lines. The brook trout is also characterized by traits typical to trout – small scales; a small, fleshy adipose fin on the midline of the back near the tail; and a small, triangular projection (the axillary process) at the upper end of the pelvic fin. The brook trout is Nebraska’s smallest trout and is considered a fall spawner – utilizing clean, gravelly riffles in streams. Its diet primarily consists of aquatic and terrestrial insects and small fish.

brook trout

Brown

The brown trout requires cold (less than 70 degrees), well-oxygenated water. It has prominent spots on back and sides, which are often red or orange and accented with halos. The tail fin is not forked and generally free of spots. It also has typical trout characteristics – small scales, adipose fin on the midline of the back near the tail, and a small, triangular projection (the axillary process) at the upper end of the pelvic fin. The brown trout is Nebraska’s largest trout and spawns in fall or early winter in streams containing clean, gravelly riffles. They are typically less vulnerable to fishing pressure than rainbows. The brown trout is somewhat of an opportunist – its diet includes aquatic and terrestrial insects, snails, amphipods, crayfish and small fish.

brook trout

Rainbow

The rainbow trout requires cold (less than 70 degrees), well-oxygenated water. It tolerates slightly higher temperatures than other trout. It is speckled with small black spots on its sides (no orange or reddish spots), back, and slightly forked tail fin. A rainbow trout’s sides also have a broad pinkish or red stripe. Rainbow trout have small scales, an adipose fin on the midline of the back near the tail, and a small, triangular-shaped axillary process at the upper end of the pelvic fin. The bulk of its diet consists of aquatic and terrestrial insects, amphipods, crayfish and small fish. It spawns from early winter to late spring, depending on genetic strain and availability of clean, gravelly riffles in streams. Rainbow trout are readily caught by anglers.

brook trout

Cutthroat

The cutthroat trout requires cold (less than 70 degrees) well-oxygenated water. Cutthroats look similar to rainbow trout, but can be distinguished by the linear red, pink and orange markings along the underside of the mandibles in the lower folds of the gill plates. These markings give them their name. Cutthroat trout have a diet similar to that of rainbow trout and consisting of aquatic and terrestrial insects, amphipods, crayfish, and small fish.

brook trout