Splake are just splendid

This article is one of a series of articles on catching the twenty species of trout in North America. The Splake is a different and unique fish that is probably the first hybrid trout ever produced.

Splake is one of the first hybrids to be bred in hatcheries in the United States and introduced throughout North America. The records are a bit murky, but it seems that the first crosses were developed in 1880. The fish are created by crossing a male brook trout with a female lake trout. The name is also a hybrid using the “SP” for Speckled Trout (another name for Brook), and the “lake” part of Lake Trout. Several hatcheries have tried crossing a lake trout with a female brook trout to create a Brookinaw, but that hybrid has not been successful. When you cross two characters (both Brook and Lake Trout belong to the char family), you get a fish with all the characteristics of char.

Some of the Splake have the dashed upper body lines that are characteristic of Brook, but most do not. They are certainly more colorful than white-spotted lake trout, and I would consider them a pretty fish. Splake has some cool features that are unique. One of the most attractive to anglers is that the hybrid exhibits a phenomenal growth rate. Splake is known to reach 18 inches in 2 1/2 years after hatching. A brook trout of the same age would be about 10 inches and a lake trout about 16 inches. They are capable of reproducing, but normally they do not. The only known natural reproduction occurred in five lakes in Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada.

I have fished Splake in Maine, Ontario, and Maine. Since the fish are hybrids, the catch is only as good as the state restocking program. Maine has the most extensive Splake storage program and manages 53 waters primarily for Splake. Ten of those lakes are considered trophy management waters. Other Canadian states and provinces stock Splake, but on a somewhat smaller scale. The Maine Splake program has been surrounded by controversy. Some people in the state have not supported the introduction of this unique hybrid.

The Maine Inland Fish and Wildlife Department produced a document explaining why Splake is being stored and the benefits of the program. The most significant benefit is for the fishing public, and the document explains the other benefits very well. Utah uses the hybrids in areas where there are incidents of spinning disease in native trout. The hybrid does not appear to be susceptible to the disease. Ontario uses the hybrid in lakes where it has been difficult to establish another type of trout fishery. Splake appears to be hardy and can flourish where other trout struggle. I think the Splakes are magnificent and I have enjoyed catching them at every opportunity. It is a beautiful fish that fights well, but generally in water.

I would offer this warning about Splake fishing in both Canada and Maine. Choose well where you want to fish. Many of the Splake waters in both areas have other species, and in both places I have caught more smallmouth bass when fishing for Splake. Fishing in Utah was limited to a lake that had both Tiger Trout and Splake. I caught more Tiger Trout than Splake, but in that case I didn’t care.

Larger Splake tend to have similar feeding habits to lake trout and are minnow eaters. All of my fishing is with a fishing pole, so I use a series of clouser minnows tied for the area I’m fishing for. Most of the minnows I make resemble the scent of a rainbow. That’s the main food source for Splake in Maine and Canada, but Canada also has sculpin as a food source. The fish in Utah have a slightly different diet, but I caught fish with clouser minnows, and I had more success in Utah with smaller nymphs. My favorite pick in that area was a black stone fly nymph tied to a hook. 10.

Any Splake in the 5-10 pound range is considered a trophy fish. The world record is a 20-pound, 11-ounce fish that was caught in Ontario, Canada. Most state records are in the 10-pound range. The two places I would choose to fish for Splake are Utah and Maine, and I would fish in the spring in Maine and early in the season in Utah. Hybrids prefer water below 60 degrees F. and dive into deep water in the summer. It is really difficult to catch them with fly rod or light tackle at that time of year. Splash fishing is a sight on the lake and best done with a tube if you want to catch them with a fishing pole. They are fun, beautiful, and worth the effort.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *