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Brown Trout

Fact File

Scientific Name: Salmo trutta

Classification: Fish, Order Salmoniformes, Family Salmonidae

Size: Brown Trout commonly exceed 20 inches in length Virginia

Life Span: The lifespan of Brown Trout in Virginia ranges from 3 to 10+ years, and is heavily dependent on the waterbody they inhabit


Brown Trout are opportunistic feeders, but regularly consume benthic macroinvertebrates, crustaceans, and other fish.

Identifying Characteristics

An image of a large brown trout on a net after having been caught in one of Virginia's creeks

A mature Brown Trout netted by a Virginia angler.

  • Dark spots on a light background throughout the body
  • Body color is often comprised of browns and yellows
  • Adipose fin
  • Caudal fin is square (lacking a notch or fork)
  • Some specimens will have red spots throughout the body, gill plate, or fins

How to Discern from Similar Looking Species:

Brook Trout Salvelinus fontinalis

  • Brook Trout have vermiculations along their dorsal. These are worm-like patterns that will be absent in Brown Trout
  • Brook Trout will have white and black leading edges on their pectoral, pelvic, and anal fins, Brown Trout do not

Rainbow Trout Oncorhynchus mykiss

  • While some Brown Trout may have spots on their caudal fin, they will not persist as prominently and uniformly throughout the dorsal and caudal fins as they do in Rainbow Trout
  • Brown Trout have a square caudal fin, while Rainbow Trout have a forked caudal fin


Brown Trout are native to parts of Africa, Asia, and Europe. They have been introduced throughout portions of Virginia and much of North America as an additional recreational opportunity for anglers. Anglers are reminded that it is illegal to stock fish into a public body of water without an authorization from the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources.

Brown Trout Distribution in Virginia


Although Brown Trout are more tolerant of elevated water temperatures and pollutants than other species of trout, they do require relatively pristine water that is both cold and oxygenated. Brown Trout are often the dominant species in areas they inhabit, and will aggressively claim the most optimal habitat available to them.


Brown Trout spawn in the fall. Leading up to a spawning event, Brown Trout will display a more vibrant color variant than is typically observed at other times of the year. This often includes vibrant reds on the adipose and caudal fins. Males will sometimes develop a hooked lower jaw, known as a kype. Females will become visibly engorged in the abdomen with the presence of eggs. Like other members of the Salmonidae family, Brown Trout construct gravel nests known as redds in which they lay their eggs. In Virginia, eggs typically stay incubated within the redd for 3 to 6 weeks, and require a consistent flow of clean oxygenated water during this time.

Last updated: April 10, 2024

The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources Species Profile Database serves as a repository of information for Virginia’s fish and wildlife species. The database is managed and curated by the Wildlife Information and Environmental Services (WIES) program. Species profile data, distribution information, and photography is generated by the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, State and Federal agencies, Collection Permittees, and other trusted partners. This product is not suitable for legal, engineering, or surveying use. The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources does not accept responsibility for any missing data, inaccuracies, or other errors which may exist. In accordance with the terms of service for this product, you agree to this disclaimer.