The Stream Doctor

January 17th, 2005

Email YOUR Questions directly to the Stream Doctor. This is your opportunity to get an experts professional opinion on anything stream related.

Q. : With the spring run coming, what is the best way of telling the difference between a fresh silver brown trout and an Atlantic salmon? I think I know, but I want to be positive.

A. The Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar, is the closest native relative of the brown trout, Salmo trutta. There are some differences in the spots on the two species, but these are not always easy to distinguish. The best distinguishing characteristics are the shape of the tail and the length of the upper jaw. The brown generally has a square or even slightly rounded tail; the Atlantic salmon's tail is forked. The maxilla, or upper jaw, of the brown trout extends well behind the eye; that of the Atlantic salmon terminates below the center of the eye.

One other feature found only in the brown trout is two zigzgag rows of well-developed teeth on the vomer, the raised shaft of bone in the center of the roof of the mouth.

If you have a question, please feel free to contact me.
~ C. E. (Bert) Cushing, aka Streamdoctor
105 W. Cherokee Dr.
Estes Park, CO 80517
Phone: 970-577-1584

The 'Stream Doctor' is a retired professional stream ecologist and author, now living in the West and spending way too much time fly-fishing. You are invited to submit questions relating to anything stream related directly to him for use in this Q & A Feature at

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