Brook Trout vs Brown Trout: The Key Trout Differences

There are many different types of fish named trout including brook and brown trout. For this reason many people wonder about their differences. Let’s answer the question, what is the difference between a brook trout and brown trout?

Brook trout (S. fontinalis) and brown trout (S. trutta) are different species although from the same family. Brook trout are found mostly in the northeastern U.S. and Canada while brown trout is from Europe, Asia and also found in North and South America. Brook trout is more colorful and smaller than brown trout.

This article will compare their tastes, textures, cooking methods, costs, mercury levels and whether one can substitute for the other in recipes. In addition, I’ll do a side-by-side comparison of their nutrients, habitats, size, weight and more.

Brook Trout vs Brown Trout: Habitats, Size, Weight, Appearance?

Are brook trout and brown trout the same?

Brook trout and brown trout are not the same, they are two different species of fish. The average brown trout is longer and weighs a little more. Brook trout has more color with orange to red coloring with yellow dots while brown trout is brown and olive-green with golden sides.

Brown trout on the top and brook trout on the bottom.
Brown trout on the top and brook trout on the bottom

Scientific Classifications, Families, Species

Brook trout are from:

  • Family: salmonidae
  • Genus: Salvelinus
  • Trout species: S. fontinalis.

Brown trout are from:

  • Family: salmonidae
  • Genus: Salmo
  • Trout species: S. trutta (salmo trutta)

A tiger trout is a hybrid of the brook and brown trouts. The pattern markings on their sides is what gives them their name.


  • Trout brook live mostly in the northeastern United States and Canada. They swim in cool, clean mountain streams, small rivers and lakes including the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Brook trout are more often found in smaller pocket water streams and creeks.
  • Brown – trout live in rivers, ponds or lakes in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa. The first ones were imported to the United States from Germany in 1883.
Brook trout swimming in their habitat.

Colors and Spots

  • Brook trout has an olive-green back. Along the sides the color transitions to an orange or red color and the belly is milky white. Brook trout have a distinctive wormlike pattern on their backs and are covered in yellow spots.
  • Brown trout are brown to an olive green near the top. The sides are a creamy, golden and off white on the belly. They are covered in black and golden, brown, dark spots.


  • Both fish have the typical long, narrow body shape and has two dorsal fins.

Size and Weight

  • Brook trout grows to an average 9-10″ in length and weighs 1-6 pounds.
  • Brown trout in smaller rivers and streams average 7-14 inches long and 2 pounds. In the larger waters they are longer and heavier.


  • Brook trout averages 6 years.
  • Brown trout’s age varies from habitat to habitat. In smaller waters they average 5 years and up to 10 years in larger bodies of water.


Brown trout consumes the following diet:

  • Insects
  • Crayfish
  • Salamanders
  • Frogs
  • Mollusks
  • Small fish

Brook trout consumes the following diet:

  • Plankton
  • Insects
  • Worms
  • Crustaceans
  • Mollusks
  • Amphibians
  • Small mammals

Fly and Trout Fishing

The trout fishing season may vary depending on your State. Some have brown trout fishing all year in lakes and ponds and in inland streams from April to October.

Always check your required local fishing rules and regulations. Prior planning and research will lead to a more successful fishing trip.

In many places late spring is the best time. AS the temperatures warm up competition from other anglers increases.

Trout are more active between 34 and 67 degrees. In the 40s feeding increases. Under cloud cover and shady areas may be better.

Lake trout, river trout and rainbow trout, cutthroat trout will have different rules, fly tying and fly fishing tips.

Species Resources ((National Park Service: Brown Trout))1

How to fish for brown and brook trout.

Tastes and Textures

One of the most important things people takes into consideration when choosing a fish in a market or fishing is its taste. Let’s compare the taste of two fish, brook trout vs brown trout.

Brown trout has a stronger and fishier flavor than brook trout. Brook trout is more mild to sweet and does not taste fishy. If a fishy taste is desired brown trout is better. If a fishy flavor is undesirable then brook trout is better. Both fish have a tender, flaky texture.

Brook trout’s texture is medium flakiness and delicate when cooked.

The larger the brown trout was when caught, the more fishy taste the fillet will contain. The texture is delicate and flaky when cooked.

Many people soak brown trout in milk overnight. This helps remove some of the fishiness by drawing out some of the oil.

To conduct original research about taste I polled my readers, clients and people in food groups. I asked them which one did they prefer the taste of better?

  • 65% said they preferred brook trout.
  • 35% said they preferred brown trout.

To conduct more taste research I setup a blind taste test at home. Both fish were prepared and seasoned the same way. Three out of four people chose the brook trout.

If you’re wondering how rainbow trout differs, check out my article, Rainbow Trout – What’s The Difference?

Brown trout.
Brown trout


When preparing recipes for dinner it’s not always possible to locate the type of fish in the market or when fishing. If you have only one you may wonder if you can substitute one for the other.

Brook trout can substitute for brown trout due to their similar textures although brown trout’s flavor is fishier and more oily. Both trout have a similar texture allowing for similar cooking methods in recipes. They can be grilled baked, roasted, poached, fried or seared. 

The best brown trout substitutes include the following:

  • Rainbow trout
  • Salmon
  • Swordfish
  • Tuna
  • Northern pike
  • Mackerel
  • Herring
  • Bass

The best brook trout substitutes are:

  • Atlantic cod
  • Alaska pollock
  • Halibut
  • Rainbow trout
  • White Sea bass
  • Flounder

When substituting either one try to stick to the following:

  • Same size and weight.
  • Stick with similar fillets, whole fillet or cross section.
  • Stick with skinless or skin when the recipe calls for one.
  • Texture is more important for certain cooking methods. Like using a firmer texture when grilling2.
How to pan fry trout.

How To Cook Brown Trout

Some chefs suggest frying brown trout in a beer batter. Others like baking it wrapped in foil with some potatoes, onion or garlic. The stronger flavor doesn’t require heavy seasoning like some other white fish.

To lessen the fishy taste soak it in milk overnight to draw out some of the oil.

Flavor Pairing

  • Citrus
  • Smoked paprika
  • Garlic
  • Chile powder
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Lemon juice

How To Cook Brook Trout

Many people cook fillets for 2-3 minutes on each side until lately browned and opaque. For whole fish, cook 3-4 minutes on each side until the flesh lifts from the backbone. The minutes may need to be adjusted depending on their size.

Flavor Pairing

  • Lemon
  • Pepper
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Touch of salt
  • Fresh herbs

The Trout Costs

The costs for fish will vary depending on how they are caught fishing and the location. Let’s take a close look at their prices.

Brown trout and brook trout costs are similar. The average cost for brown and brook trout is approximately $28.00 per pound. Live brown trout for stocking cost $10.00 per pound and brook trout $10.00 per pound.

Brown and brook trout will probably not be found in a local store. To conduct original research on costs I check various different stores for their prices.

First, I checked online at the Fulton Fish Market and found the following prices:

  • Previous frozen brown trout fillet
    • $28.32 per pound

I checked online at Russ & Daughters and found the following:

  • (2) fresh whole brook trout for $20.000

Online I checked the prices of live fish for stocking.

  • $10.00 per pound for brook trout
  • $10.00 per pound for brown trout
Kevin Garce checking the prices of mackerel and other seafood at his local market.
Checking the prices of mackerel and other seafood at my local market

Brown Trout vs Brook Trout Mercury Levels

The EPA and FDA have issued warnings and suggestions regarding mercury levels in fish and how often they should be consumed3. This is especially important for young infants, developing children and pregnant women.

They established a list of best fish, good choices and ones to avoid based on their mercury levels.

Brook trout and brown trout have similar levels of mercury. Freshwater trout are listed on the FDA’s best choices of fish to consume regarding their mercury levels. 

Always check with a physician prior to eating new foods or changing your dietary habits.

Brook Trout and Brown Trout Nutrition Value

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of all the nutrients per four ounces:

Nutrient Brown Trout, raw (4 Ounces) Brook Trout, raw (4 Ounces)
Calories 168 125
Fat 3.4 g 3.1 g
Saturated Fat 1.6 g 0.7 g
Cholesterol 66 mg 68 mg
Protein 21 g 24 g
Sodium 61 mg 51 mg
Omega-3 1.04 g 0.47 g
B-6 0.2 mg 0.3 mg
B-12 8.8 mcg 3.1 mcg
Thiamin 0.39 mg 0.15 mg
Riboflavin 0.37 mg 0.11 mg
B5 2.2 mg 1.0 mg
Iron 1.7 mg 0.4 mg
Niacin 5.1 mg 6.0 mg
Folate 14.7 mcg 13.6 mcg
Potassium 441 mg 472 mg
Magnesium 32 mg 31 mg
Phosphorus 277 mg 278 mg
Calcium 48.7 mg 28.3 mg
Zinc 0.7 mg 0.6 mg
Selenium 15.0 mcg 14.3 mcg

Nutrient Sources ((New Zealand Food Composition Data: Trout, brown, flash, raw))4 ((Cornell University: Trout Nutritional Information: Brook Trout, raw))

Both fish contain a good number of minerals and vitamins. At first glance it’s difficult to determine which fish provides more. Therefore, let’s examine which one is healthier.

Brown trout is healthier than brook trout due to its higher percentage of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and minerals. It provides more B12, thiamin, riboflavin, B5, folate, magnesium, calcium, zinc and selenium than brook trout.

Brook trout is healthy and contains omega-3 fatty acids, less calories and total fat. It provides more B6, niacin, potassium and phosphorus.

It difficult to argue against either one for their health benefits. The major difference between the two is the omega-3 fatty acids contained in brown trout. If you’re wondering why they’re so important, keep reading the next section.

Brook Trout and Brown Trout Health Benefits

Both fish provide the same nutrients and therefore the same benefits. Although I broke down the benefits by which fish offers the higher percentage of each nutrient ((FDA: Seafood Nutrition Facts)).

Brown Trout Health Benefits

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Brown trout provides 1.04 grams of omega-3 per four ounces raw. They contain approximately 120% more which leads to the question, why does omega-3 fatty acids matter so much?

It’s because omega-3 fatty acids are heart healthy and help keep arteries healthy. The omega-3s may help with the following:

  • Keeping bad cholesterol low.
  • Keeping good cholesterol high.
  • Reducing inflammation.
  • Reducing plaque build-up.
  • Lowering triglycerides
  • Help keep the heart rhythms more normal.

DHA and EPA, two of the fatty acids, are associated with lowering blood pressure and improving the health of blood vessels ((National Center for Biotechnology: Marine Omega-3 Supplementation and Cardiovascular Disease)).

Studies suggest omega-3s can help reduce joint pain and stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis. They may also boost the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory drugs.

Omega 3 sources.
Omega 3 sources

B Vitamins

Of the seven B vitamins listed in the table above, brown trout contains more of five of them. The B vitamins in the table include B6, B12, B5, B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin) and B9 (folate). B vitamins help support the following:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Red blood cells
  • Digestion
  • Energy levels
  • Brain function
  • Nerve function


Selenium is an underreported nutrient. I’m unsure why many don’t write about it more because studies5 show selenium may help to protect the following:

  • Heart disease
  • Thyroid
  • The immune system
  • Cognitive issues


Adding magnesium to your diet could be instrumental in improving sleep related issues like insomnia. Magnesium relaxes and calms the whole body including the blood vessels ((National Institutes of Health: Magnesium)).

More so, it helps keep blood pressure levels balanced and stable. A recent study researched 22 studies and concluded magnesium supplementation decreased diastolic and systolic blood pressure6.

Magnesium helps control muscle and nerve function, blood sugar and blood pressure. In the muscles and heart, magnesium competes with calcium to help the muscles relax after contracting.

When the body is low in magnesium, calcium can over stimulate the heart muscle’s cells causing a rapid or irregular heartbeat.


Calcium is important for blood pressure and the heart.

Harvard Health reports calcium helps maintain blood pressure because it helps to control the relaxing and tightening of blood vessels7. Calcium also helps the following:

  • Build and maintain strong bones.
  • Muscles need calcium to function properly.
  • Improve nerve function.

Find out how trout compared to bass in my recent article, Trout vs Bass – What’s The Difference? Let’s Compare.

Brook Trout Health Benefits


Brook trout provides 278 mg of phosphorus per four ounces. Phosphorus has been shown in studies to may help the following:

  • Muscle contraction.
  • Muscle recovery after exercise.
  • Promoting healthy nerve conduction.
  • Promote bone and teeth strength.
  • Aids the kidneys in waste removal.
  • Help the body manage and store energy.

Check out the best replacements for trout in my article, Trout Replacements: The 12 Best Healthy Substitutes.

Brook trout upper back markings.
Brook trout upper back markings


Since the recommended daily amount is 4,700 mg, they both provide an excellent number.

Potassium is beneficial for reducing sodium intake. It helps the body reduce fluids and rids excess sodium ((American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure)). This process helps to reduce blood pressure.

The more potassium you consume, the more sodium your body will lose. Consuming too much sodium or not enough potassium throws off the delicate balance the kidneys need to remove the excess water8.

According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and increased blood pressure9.

If you’re wondering how steelhead trout and rainbow trout differ, check out my article, Steelhead Trout vs Rainbow Trout – What’s The Difference?

As a Certified Health Coach, many of my clients ask me about seafood. In addition to coaching clients about brown and brook trout, I’ve purchased, researched and consumed both fish for over 20 years.

If you have any questions about this article or other featured content, don’t hesitate to email and notify us. You can find an email on our contact page. We’ll do our best to reply as soon as possible.

Read Next – More Trout vs Fish Articles!

Rainbow Trout vs Salmon: Is One Better?

Trout vs Salmon: Is One More Healthier Than The Other?

Steelhead vs Salmon: Which Is Better?

Rainbow Trout vs Cod: Which Is Better? Let’s Compare

Cod vs Salmon: Is One Better?

  1. The National Wildlife Federation: Brook Trout []
  2. Sea Grant North Carolina: Fish Flavors and Substitutions []
  3. FDA: Advice about Eating Fish []
  4. USDA: Trout []
  5. National Institutes of Health: Selenium []
  6. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis []
  7. Harvard Health: Key minerals to help control blood pressure []
  8. National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of the Sodium to Potassium Ratio on Hypertension Prevalence: A Propensity Score Matching Approach []
  9. Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure []

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