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WSU/Pend Oreille Extension introduced the Sense of Place series in 1999, with a focus on local landscape and natural history of Pend Oreille County, Washington. A partnership with the Kalispel Tribe of Indians Natural Resources Department has allowed us to expand this program through EPA funding to include more classes, a newsletter and this website.

Bull Trout

For thousands of years, bull trout have traveled some of the longest migration routes of any trout in North America. Once common in the Lower Clark Fork Basin and throughout the Inland Pacific Northwest, bull trout now live in extremely reduced numbers and were recently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Bull trout are actually “chars,” related to coastal dolly varden, brook trout and lake trout. They spawn in September and early October. Their eggs are buried about six inches deep in gravel in the stream bottom and remain there until spring when the eggs hatch and the fry emerge. Young bull trout then typically huddle among the stream bottom rocks during the first one to three years before migrating downstream to bigger streams and lakes. Some bull trout remain as residents in their birth stream their entire lives.

Bull trout are more temperature sensitive than most other trouts and chars. They require cleaner, colder water making them prime indicators of stream health. The biggest threats to bull trout are harm to stream habitat, competition from exotic species like brook trout and lake trout, and poaching.

Bull trout can be easily separated from brook trout by a few distinguishing characteristics. Bull Trout never have spots on the dorsal (back) fin. The spots on a bull trout’s olive green to bronze colored back and sides come in shades of pale yellow, orange and red. A lake trout’s tail is more deeply forked.

Excerpted with permission from a brochure sponsored by Idaho Fish and Game, Trout Unlimited, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, & Avista

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