E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Wildlife of British Columbia

Salvelinus namaycush (Walbaum, 1792)
Lake Trout
Family: Salmonidae

© Ian Gardiner  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #5790)

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Source: Distribution map provided by Don McPhail for E-Fauna BC
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Species Information

Dorsal spines (total): 4 - 5; Dorsal soft rays (total): 8 - 10; Anal spines: 4 - 5; Anal soft rays: 8 - 10; Vertebrae: 61 - 69. Distinguished by its color, white or yellowish spots on a dark green to grayish background, its deeply forked tail and its numerous pyloric caeca. Lateral line slightly curved anteriorly; pelvic fins with small axillary process (Ref. 27547). Body typically trout-like, elongate, somewhat rounded. Head stout, broad dorsally; mouth large, terminal, snout usually protruding slightly beyond lower jaw when mouth is closed. Back and sides usually dark green liberally sprinkled with whitish to yellowish (never pink or red) spots; overall color varies from light green to gray, brown, dark green or nearly black; belly white; pale spots present on dorsal, adipose and caudal fins and usually on base of anal; sometimes orange-red on paired fins, especially in northern populations; anterior edge of paired and anal fins sometimes with a white border. At spawning time, males develop a dark lateral stripe and become paler on the back (Ref. 27547). Caudal fin with 19 rays (Ref. 2196).

Source: FishBase. Page, L.M. and B.M. Burr 1991 A field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 432 p


Species Biology

Found in shallow and deep waters of northern lakes and streams and is restricted to relatively deep lakes in the southern part of its range (Ref. 5723). Rarely in brackish water (Ref. 11980). A solitary wanderer, the extent of their movements apparently limited by the size of the lake and individual (Ref. 27547). Although lake trout generally feed on a variety of organisms such as freshwater sponges, crustaceans, insects, fishes (with a preference for ciscoes), and small mammals, some populations feed on plankton throughout their lives (Ref. 27547). Such plankton-feeding lake trout grow more slowly, mature earlier and at smaller size, die sooner and attain smaller maximum size than do their fish-eating counterparts (Ref. 30351). Lake trout are highly susceptible to pollution, especially from insecticides (Ref. 14019, 27547).

Source: FishBase. Page, L.M. and B.M. Burr 1991 A field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 432 p


BC Distribution and Notes

There is evidence that, during the Pleistocene, lake trout survived (and diverged) in at least five separate refugia. The B.C. populations are derived from two refugia: those in the Yukon, Chilkat, Taku, and Stikine systems, and, perhaps, in the upper Liard are derived from the Bering Refugium; while, those in the Skeena, Fraser, Peace and lower Liard systems are derived from eastern sources. In addition, lake trout from eastern North America have been introduced into B.C. Again, from a biodiversity perspective, it is important to distinguish between indigenous and introduced populations. Basically, any populations south of Shuswap Lake are probably introduced. Although, the biology of lake trout is well known, we need more information on our native populations. The lake trout is native to the northern half of the province; however, eastern lake trout have been planted in some southern lakes.

Source: Information provided by Don McPhail for E-Fauna BC.
Global Distribution

North America: Widely distributed from northern Canada and Alaska south to New England in USA and Great Lakes basin in Canada-USA. Introduced widely to many areas outside its native range. Splakes (hybrid between Salvelinus namaycush and Salvelinus fontinalis) have also been successfully introduced to many areas of North America. The three observed phenotypes existing in Lake Superior (lean, siscowet and humper or paperbelly) are under some genetic control and not merely expressions of environmental adaptation (Ref. 40529).

Source: FishBase. Page, L.M. and B.M. Burr 1991 A field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 432 p

Status Information

Origin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)
NativeS4YellowNot Listed
BC Ministry of Environment: BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer--the authoritative source for conservation information in British Columbia.

Additional Range and Status Information Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References

Recommended citation: Author, Date. Page title. In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2017. E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Fauna of British Columbia [efauna.bc.ca]. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. [Accessed: 21/08/2019 8:36:15 AM]
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