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Female Brook Trout Bulging with Eggs

Too difficult to shoot on the Fujifilm GFX100 II, the iPhone 15 Pro Max had to make-do for this beautiful Salvelinus fontinalis out of Saddlebag Lake. They have sized-up more than I have ever seen them there ever since the California Department of Fish and Game halted the stocking of Onchorynchus mykiss, thus making far more food available and thus explaining the tens of thousands of fry in spring and summer that I observed.

The brook trout was first scientifically described as Salmo fontinalis by the naturalist Samuel Latham Mitchill in 1814. The specific epithet "fontinalis" comes from the Latin for "of a spring or fountain", in reference to the clear, cold streams and ponds in its native habitat. The species was later moved to the char genus Salvelinus, which in North America also includes the lake troutbull troutDolly Varden, and the Arctic char.

Spawning was weeks later than I have ever observed over many years. Indeed, as of Nov 1, the brookies at 10K feet elevatoin were still loaded with eggs (females) and milt (males). I don’t know about the non-binary ones.

I had 4 or 5 trout dinners while in the area, always taking the 6-7 inch 'sardines', sweet and tasty unlike the larger ones which become tough and unsavory near spawning time.

Ready to spawn and bulging with eggs, this female about 11 inches is gorgeous. She went back unharmed, departed with vigor, and probably spawned by Nov 6. I caught several ~12-inch males. Brook trout are much harder to catch near spawning time because they are not feeding, only aggressively striking any intruder into their redds.

See also the video below.

Salvelinus fontinalis
f1.8 @ 1/400 sec, ISO 64; 2023-10-31 16:03:11
iPhone 15 Pro Max + iPhone 15 Pro Max 6.9 mm f/4 @ 6.9mm ENV: altitude 10085 ft / 3074 m

[low-res image for bot]

Video below, shot in 4K.

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