10 Trout, Salmon and Char hybrids.

While researching for an article on the differences between Trout and Salmon, I got side tracked by hybridisation between the different groups of Salmonidae’s. It turns out, there is a lot of different trout hybrids out there.

For those who do not know, Salmonidae is the scientific Family which all ‘true’ Salmon, Trout and Char belong. I said all true, because the terms trout and salmon is thrown around quite frequently in common speech for example the Spotted Seatrout found in the Southern US, The Marble trout found in the seas around New Zealand (not to be confused with the marble trout in Europe, which is indeed a Salmonidae) and the Australian Salmon all belong to completely different classifications of fish. So despite the name trout or salmon they are in no ways Salmonidae’s.

So in this article, I want to share some of the more interesting hybrids which occur between Trout, Char and Salmon.

Feel free to share any first hand experiences with these or other hybrids in the comments below.


Tiger Trout

The tiger trout, is probably the best known Salmonidae hybird. It is the cross between a Brown Trout and Brook Char.

Tiger trout grow fast and are generally healthy and aggressive making them a popular choice for stocking. They are also infertile which prevents them from becoming an invasive species.

I do not think I am alone in thinking, with their plentiful stripes Tiger trout are among the most attractive Salmoidaes.

In streams where both Brook char and Brown trout co-exist. Wild tiger trout are known to occur.

Tiger Trout | photograph by Matthew Tyree

Cheetah Trout

The Cheetah Trout is a little known hybrid between Rainbow trout and Brook Char. Like the Tiger trout they are infertile. Cheetah trout typically maintain the personality and behaviours of Rainbow trout. Apparently, Cheetah trout have a low survival rate in the hatchery making them a less popular stocking choice than Tiger trout.

And like the name suggests, Cheetah Trout are covered in dots.

If you wish to catch a Cheetah Trout, your best bid is probably to organize a vacation to Victoria Australia where they were recently stocked into Lake Purrumbete.

On the topic of trout named after big cats, there is also ‘Leopard trout’ found in Alaska. But these are not a hybrid, but a color variation of Rainbow trout. To add to the confusion, I also heard people refer to Cheetah trout as Leopard trout.

Splake

Splakes are a hybird between a male brook char and a female lake trout. Hybrids can occur between female Brooks and male lakers but they are not as successful. These hybrids do not typically occur in the wild due to differences in spawning behaviour. Brook Char prefer to spawn in concentrates redds while Lake Trout broadcast spawn over a large area.

With both parents, belonging to the same Genus Salvelinus (or Char) their offspring the Splake are capable of wild reproduction although it is extremely rare.

Splake are a popular species to stock, because they grow fast and their low breeding success means populations density can be fully managed by stocking with little threat of a wild population developing.

Hybrids between Brown Trout and Atlantic Salmon are fertile.

Splakes are a hybird between brook char and lake trout : Photo by Angelena Sikora/USFWS.

Brownbows

The Brownbow is another man made creation which are extremely rare. Their parents Brown and Rainbow trout spawn at different times of the years so Brownbows can not occur in wild populations.

Brownbows typically show feeding behaviours more in common with Rainbow trout but can maintain the wary nature of browns.

Because Brownbows are infertile, there was some hope that they will be an excellent choice for stocking. By not spawning, they grow faster and are less prone to fungal infection.

Rainbow trout X Coho Salmon

These species have been known to hybridise. In the wild they spawn at different times of the year so they are unlikely to occur in wild populations and are usually the outcome of experimenting within hatcheries.

If they have a common name, I am not aware of it.

Rainbow trout x Cutthroat

These two species of trout are very closely related, and the hybrid has been known to occur quite frequently in wild populations.

In some regions, there is a concern that hybridisation with invasive Rainbow trout could see the extinction of pure cut-throat in these fisheries.

Co-nooks

Cross breeding between Coho and Chinook salmon can produce a co-nook.

Co-nooks are fertile and second generation hybrids have also been found in the wild.

Co-nook hybrids are more likely to occur in years of extreme drought where spawning fish are forced together. In normal years the two species spawn at different times which reduces the chances of cross breeding occurring.

Pinooks

This is the naturally occurring cross between Chinook and Pink salmon. I have read reports, that the hybrids are apparently more common in the great lakes due to less predation.

For reasons, I do not understand most Pinooks are also male.

Chumpies

The chumpie is a cross between Chum and Pink Salmon.

They are rarely caught by recreational fishermen but they are caught occasionally by commercial fishermen.

There has been some commercial interest to breed and raise them. The salmon farmers were hoping to produce a hybrid with the pink flesh of the Pink Salmon and the yearly spawning of the Chum. Apparently they have darker flesh than the parents and are more likely to take lures than the chum. The breeding operation saw some success, but it never developed into a fishery.

The hybrids are strong enough to reach maturity, but there is some evidence to suggest they do not spawn. Chumpies today are rarely seen in the wild.


Brown Trout x Atlantic Salmon

I will finish this quick write up about the cross between the Brown Trout and Atlantic Salmon.

This hybrid does occur in the wild and they there is conflicting information published wither they can produce viable young or not.

This hybrid generated some controversy a few years back when it was discovered that genetically modified farmed Atlantic Salmon can hybridised with wild brown trout and the offspring were capable of outcompeting wild fish.

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