Trout identification and fishing tips

Want to catch more trout? Learn how to identify and catch the different types of trout that MassWildlife stocks.

Each year MassWildlife stocks nearly half a million trout into 500 rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds throughout Massachusetts.

Brook trout

Brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), also known as eastern brook trout, brookies, square tails, and brook char, are Massachusetts’ only native trout. Mature, wild brook trout are often less than 8 inches, whereas brook trout from MassWildlife’s hatcheries are 9–18 inches. 

Male and female brook trout


  • Worm-like markings along their back and head
  • Yellow and red spots (the latter surrounded by blue halos) along the sides 
  • Spots lighter than body 
  • White leading edge, backed by black, on its lower fins 
  • During fall spawning season males often develop a deep reddish tint along the belly and darken to black on the chin and throat 

Tips for catching brook trout:

  • Stocked brook trout are found in rivers, lakes, and ponds across the state. (Find stocked waterbodies at They are fairly easy to catch and will strike flies, streamers, small spoons and spinners, worms, grass-hoppers, and even tiny colored marshmallows. 
  • Wild brook trout can be found in shaded stream habitats and should be approached stealthily to avoid detection. Drifting a worm downstream beneath a tiny bobber is an effective technique; you may need to add a split-shot a few inches above the hook to get the bait into swift current areas.


Brown trout

Brown trout (Salmo trutta) get their name from their golden-brown color. Also known as German brown trout and Loch Leven Trout, they are native to Europe and Asia and were introduced into Massachusetts in the late 1800s. They are 9–18 inches long when stocked. 

Male and female brown trout


  • Golden to brownish-yellow color, sometimes almost silvery 
  • Scattered spots with silver halos
  • Spots are darker than the body 

Tips for catching brown trout:

  • One of the most difficult trout to catch because they are easily spooked and difficult to fool. 
  • Brown trout have more nocturnal habits. 
  • Target them with minnow-imitating plugs, spoons, spinners and streamers, various moth imitations (especially at night) and with cast or trolled live shiners.


Rainbow trout

Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) get their name from their multicolored pattern. Native to Pacific coastal areas from northern Mexico to Alaska, rainbow trout are now found on every continent except Antarctica. Rainbow trout account for more than 60% of MassWildlife’s hatchery production. Their popularity with anglers stems from their eagerness to bite, beautiful appearance, strong leaping ability, and large size when stocked. Most rainbow trout are more than 12 inches when stocked. 

Male and female rainbow trout


  • Pinkish to red longitudinal band 
  • Small black spots cover them from head to tail 
  • Wide, square tail 

Tips for catching rainbow trout:

  • Rainbow trout strike a variety of baits and lures. 
  • In rivers, an effective technique is to drift half a night crawler or a salmon egg down into pools and holding areas behind boulders. 
  • Nymphs and small gold or silver spinners fished with ultra-light gear is another useful technique. 
  • In lakes and ponds, small spoons and minnow imitations, gaudy streamers, weighted nymphs, and live baits in the form of garden worms, meal worms and tiny shiners will all work well when catching rainbow trout. 
  • The most effective “stockie killer” of recent years is Berkley’s marshmallow-like powerbait. What color the fish will prefer on any given day remains one of the greatest mysteries in fishing.


Tiger trout

Tiger trout (Salmo trutta X Salvelinus fontinalis) get their name from their distinctive striped color pattern. They are a sterile hybrid produced from a male brook trout and a female brown trout. MassWildlife raises tiger trout at the Sandwich Hatchery and stocks approximately 2,500 tiger trout annually. Due to the small number released each year, they are a unique trophy sought by anglers throughout the state. Tiger trout are 14 inches or longer when stocked. 

Female tiger trout


  • Dramatic worm-like pattern across most of their body 
  • Thicker-built than other trout species and like to throw their weight around 

Tips for catching tiger trout:

  • Be prepared; tigers strike more readily and fight harder than either of its parents. 
  • Target tiger trout the same way you would target a brown trout - with minnow-imitating plugs, spoons, spinners and streamers, various moth imitations (especially at night) and with cast or trolled live shiners.


Contact   for Trout identification and fishing tips


1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581

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