What Do Brook Trout Eat?

Be sure to read this article before you fish for brook trout. It'll help you learn what to use and when to use specific baits.

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What do brook trout eat day to day throughout their lives? Brook trout eat a variety of species including small insects like nymphs and scuds as well as larger meals like leeches, mollusks, crustaceans, fish eggs, mice and even other fish.

Brook trout are oftentimes very selective in their eating, which usually has to do with time of day and season of the year. But when food is prevalent and easy to obtain, they won’t shy away from it.

Don’t miss our Complete Guide to the Best Brook Trout Flies.

What Do Brook Trout Eat?

Brook trout, while selective, have a wide variety of species they will consume. Scuds, shrimp, mussels, leeches, worms, mice, frogs, fish, and many others are all on the menu for a hungry brook trout. We’ll dive into more specifics throughout this article.

What Do Brook Trout Eat

Brook Trout Eat Crustaceans

Brook trout eat a variety of crustaceans throughout their lives. Crustaceans, in the simplest terms, are water animals with a body made up of segments, two antennae, jointed limbs, and a tough outer shell.

There are thousands of crustaceans that live in brook trout habitat throughout the world, but we’ll only be looking at some of the most common ones below.

A Freshwater Shrimp with White BackgroundShrimp

Shrimp are one of the mainstays of a brook trout’s diet. While they’ll eat a variety of different foods throughout a day, shrimp are a staple. Brook trout are often found in cold, clear water which is the exact habitat that allows shrimp to thrive as well.

If the bite slows down when you’re on a river or lake, tying on a freshwater shrimp pattern is one of the best ways to entice a sunning brook trout. A good one is the Avalon Shrimp.

Crafish with a white backgroundCrayfish

Crayfish are one of the larger crustaceans on the list, but brook trout still love them. A common misconception among anglers is that their local stream or lake is not home to crayfish; however, crayfish can be found in most states in the U.S. and multiple countries throughout the world.

Crayfish spend most of their time sitting under rocks along the banks of the waters’ edge. A quickly stripped crawfish pattern along a bank can oftentimes produce a strike.

tiny scudScuds

Scuds are frequently called “freshwater shrimp,” and ultimately, they’re another crustacean that brook trout love to eat. They vary in size from an eighth of an inch to some reaching over one inch in length.

They inhabit most rivers and lakes and are usually found floating lower in the water column, near the bottom.

In rivers and streams, the current is constantly carrying scuds downstream, and trout will continually sip them up as they’re carried by. Dead drifting or swinging scuds is a great way to catch brook trout any time of year.

Here are the best methods for fly fishing with scud.

Sowbugs for brook trout foodSowbugs

Sowbugs are similar to scuds and shrimp. They’re a favorite snack for a hungry brook trout. However, sowbugs, unlike scuds, shrimp and crayfish, are one of the only members of the crustacean family to live their lives almost exclusively on land.

They like the damp, moist areas around streams and lakes, but spend almost all of their time amongst the rocks and grasses that line a shore.

They’re frequently caught up in a current or blown into a body of water, and when that happens brook trout often pounce. Drifting a small sowbug fly along a cut bank can entice even the pickiest of brook trout.

Watch the What Do Trout Eat Video

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Brook Trout Eat Mammals and Reptiles

Brook trout, in addition to eating a variety of crustaceans, aren’t shy about eating larger prey like mammals. Some of the most common mammals brook trout will eat if given the opportunity are mice.

what do brooktrout eat

brook trout foodMice

Brook trout, specifically larger ones, will jump at the opportunity to eat an unfortunate mouse that has fallen into a river or lake.

Mice will run back and forth along the bank of a stream and the edge of lakes throughout the day, and they’re even more active at night.

Oftentimes, mice will accidentally fall into the water, and when that happens a brook trout will attack. One of the best and most fun ways to catch large brook trout is to tie on a mouse pattern and dead drift it along a river bank at dusk and even after.

what do brook trout feed onTortoises

Some brook trout will even eat an unsuspecting tortoise or turtle that swims by. Normally, brook trout will attack smaller ones, as the larger turtles/tortoises have a thicker shell that’s more difficult for a brook trout to maneuver around.

In lakes and streams where turtles and tortoises are present, floating a turtle fly can produce a strike.

Brook Trout Eat Amphibians

Amphibians are a favorite meal of many brook trout. Frogs, salamanders and a variety of tadpoles are found in almost every body of water that a brook trout inhabits.

When one of these amphibians casually floats by a hungry brook trout, that opportunity is rarely wasted.

brook trout fishing

best bait for brook troutFrogs

Brook trout can be very aggressive feeders, and quick action/movement of prey will often produce a strike even if the trout isn’t particularly hungry.

The quick twitching movements of a jumping or swimming frog are sometimes too much for a brook trout to resist.

eat more brook troutSalamanders

Similar to frogs, salamanders have those same quick twitch movements that cause a brook trout to strike.

Salamanders can range in size depending on environment and ecosystem, so when deciding which salamander to tie on, be sure to check your region.

Brook Trout Eat Mollusks

Brook trout aren’t shy about eating many different types of mollusks. Mollusks are invertebrates that have an unsegmented body and most often have a dense shell they use for protection and shelter.

what does a brook trout eat

Many of them live directly in the water, and those that don’t are found in the damp areas surrounding bodies of water, which makes them plentiful throughout brook trout habitat.

what do brook trout eat in the winterSnails

The most common mollusk in a brook trout’s diet are snails. They live in almost every state and country throughout the world and live most of their lives attached to rocks and other stationary objects in the water.

With snails occupying almost every brook trout’s habitat, they’re a great option to start with.

what do brook trout like to eatMussels

Very similar to snails, mussels live in almost the exact same habitats and regions as snails.

With mussels being so prevalent, brook trout make them a large portion of their diet as well.

Brook Trout Eat Worms

Another addition to the diet of brook trout are worms. There are many different types of worms and species that fit under the invertebrate classification, and two of the most popular ones for trout are earthworms and leeches.

Earthworm for brook troutEarthworms

Brook trout will consistently eat earthworms. Found throughout the world, earthworms are a common, meaty option that brook trout devour.

With them being so prevalent, fishing an earthworm fly is a fantastic option to try to entice a feeding brook trout.

leech for brook troutLeeches

Leeches are another extremely common invertebrate that are prevalent in most brook trout waters.

Unlike the earthworm, which spends most of its life on land, leeches are water based and provide brook trout with multiple opportunities for a timely meal.

A drifting leech isn’t often ignored by a feeding brook trout.

Brook Trout Eat Smaller Fish

Another addition to the brook trout diet is smaller fish. Brook trout are aggressive feeders, and when in need of a meal, if a smaller trout or minnow is available, they won’t hesitate to consume one.

minnows for brook troutSame Species Minnows

Brook trout also often eat brook trout that are smaller than themselves.

Large brook trout are especially aggressive and at times will even attack a struggling smaller brook trout when the opportunity arises.

minnow for brook troutOther Minnows

Minnows are another desirable food option for brook trout. Found in essentially every body of water, minnows make a great meal.

The quick movements and bright reflection from the sun off of a minnow trigger a brook trouts’ aggressive feeding instincts. Quickly stripping a minnow fly will give you a great chance at landing one.

The Clouser Minnow is one of the best minnow patterns.

sculpin for brook troutSculpin

Another fish that brook trout prey on are sculpin. Often referred to as bullhead, sculpin are found in most waters around the world.

Brook Trout Eat Fish Eggs

During spawning seasons, usually October to November, brook trout will add fish eggs to their diet. Rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout spawn during the fall as well as a variety of other fish (like salmon), and with eggs so prevalent, they become a large part of a brook trout’s diet for that portion of the year.

salmon egg for brook troutSalmon Eggs

Salmon are fall spawners, so during the fall salmon runs, brook trout will frequently eat salmon eggs that get caught in the current and float downstream.

Flies that imitate a salmon egg or egg clusters are a must-have when you’re fishing for brook trout during the fall.

Other Brook Trout Eggs

Similar to salmon, brook trout also spawn in the fall, and a hungry one won’t be picky when brook trout eggs float downstream past them.

Brook Trout Eat Terrestrials

One of the mainstays of the summer diet of a brook trout are terrestrials. Terrestrials come in many different forms, with the main brook trout choices being grasshoppers, beetles, ants, mayflies, caddisflies, moths, midges, stoneflies and countless others that we’ll look at below.

Grasshoppers for brook troutGrasshoppers

Grasshoppers are a favorite snack for a feeding brook trout. As grasshoppers hatch and hop in the grasslands that often surround a stream or body of water, many will fall in the water becoming an easy catch for a waiting brook trout.

Floating a grasshopper downstream on a summer day is a great way to get the attention of a loafing brook trout.

beetles for brook troutBeetles

Similar to grasshoppers, beetles crawl and fly along bodies of water where waiting brook trout are ready to pounce.

There are even times when an aggressive brook trout will jump out of the water to grab a beetle that’s flying too close to the surface of the water.

ants for brook troutAnts

Ants are one of the most prevalent terrestrials, as they emerge from hibernation earlier than others.

Hungry brook trout will take advantage of unfortunate ants who make their way into the water, and they’re an easy snack once stuck.

You can read everything to know about fly fishing ants in this detailed guide.

mayflies for brook troutMayflies

Mayflies are extremely common throughout all areas that brook trout call home, thus making them a favorite snack of brook trout everywhere.

After emerging and prior to flying away, mayflies will sit on top of the water, much to the benefit of the brook trout below.

caddisflies for brook troutCaddisflies

Caddisflies are extremely similar to mayflies in that they’re common in almost every area brook trout live.

There are thousands of species of caddisflies, and during morning and evening hatches brook trout can be seen eating them directly on and above the surface.

moths for brook troutMoths

Moths, though slightly less prevalent than mayflies and caddisflies, are still a common snack for a feeding brook trout.

They routinely hatch in damp areas near rivers, streams and lakes, making them a great option for a fortunate brook trout.

midges for brook troutMidges

In certain areas of the country, midges can make up over half of a brook trout’s daily diet.

One of the most prevalent midges in areas that house brook trout are gnats.

Cicada for brook troutCicadas

Cicadas are one of the larger terrestrials in a brook trout’s diet. Cicadas emerge from the end of June through the month of August, and hungry brook trout will take full advantage of these hatches.

Dragonfly for brook troutDragonflies

Another large terrestrial in a brook trout’s diet is the dragonfly. One of the staples of a dragonflies’ diet is the midge.

Dragonflies will frequently fly just above the water catching midges taking their first flights, and that’s the time brook trout will strike.

Stonefly for brook troutStoneflies

Stoneflies are another common food source for brook trout. Found in most trout waters throughout North America, brook trout will eat both the stonefly midges as well as the winged adult.

Here’s our ultimate guide to fly fishing terrestrials by an expert angler.

Brook Trout Eat Nymphs

Nymphs, in their most basic definition, are immature insects that haven’t fully morphed into their final body stage. They’re also at the core of a brook trout’s diet. With thousands of insects born in brook trout habitat, nymphs are present any time of year, and as a result are one of a brook trout’s top food choices.

How To Tie a Caddis Nymph Fly Tying Tutorial

Caddis Nymphs

Caddis nymphs are the pre-mature stage of the caddis fly, one of the main fully developed flies of a brook trout’s diet. They’re constantly nabbed by hungry trout as they make their way up the water column.


Midges are another staple of a brook trout’s daily diet. Most come in a gnat or mosquito form, but there are many different forms. They’re extremely small insects, but a brook trout will slurp a passing midge almost any time of the year.

Below I’ll show you the fly fishing midges and everything you need to know about fishing these classic flies.

Mayfly Nymphs

Mayfly nymphs are one of the most prevalent nymphs in water ecosystems, and as a result they’ve become a frequent food source for feeding brook trout.

Stonefly Nymphs

Stonefly nymphs are one of the larger nymphs on a brook trout’s menu. Needing extremely oxygenated waters, they’re normally found in cold, high elevation streams that brook trout frequent.

Dragonfly Nymphs

Dragonfly nymphs are another larger sized nymphs. They spend most of their time on a stream

or riverbed, and brook trout don’t often miss an opportunity to pick an unsuspecting dragonfly nymph off a rock or submerged log.

Don’t miss our Angler’s Guide to Fly Fishing Nymphs.

Brook Trout Eat Moss & Algae

As I’ve discussed throughout the article, brook trout are opportunistic feeders, and in certain rivers and streams, moss and algae is very prevalent. While neither is a top choice for brook trout, they’ll occasionally eat moss and algae when other options aren’t as widespread.

There are also times when algae and moss are carried downstream by a current, and on certain occasions a brook trout will see it and strike it for a quick meal.

Brook Trout Eat Stones & Rocks

Why do brook trout eat stones and rocks? While brook trout don’t intentionally eat rocks and stones, when eating emerging insects from the lake or stream bed, it’s only natural they’ll pick up rocks and stones with them. It’s not uncommon when examining the contents of a brook trout’s stomach to find multiple pebbles, stones and rocks.

Brook Trout Have a Seasonal Diet

With the changing seasonal weather patterns, brook trout will adjust what they eat due to the prevalence of certain food items.

fly fishing brook trout

What Do Brook Trout Eat in Winter?

In the winter, brook trout eat a wide variety of nymphs and midges. With the colder temperatures, a brook trout’s metabolism slows and as a result they don’t need as much food. With less food comes less energy, so brook trout will oftentimes place themselves in deeper areas where food will ride the current right past them.

What Do Brook Trout Eat in Early Spring?

A brook trout’s spring diet is often predicated on the weather of the day. If it’s cold and chilly, they’ll continue their winter feeding habits, but if the day is warmer and the chill is gone, brook trout will activate and chase minnows, crayfish, shrimp and larger prey.

What Do Brook Trout Eat in Summer?

Throughout the summer, brook trout will eat a huge variety of food. From larger prey like frogs, salamanders, stone and salmon flies, to smaller ones like caddis and mayflies, brook trout are eating constantly.

What Do Brook Trout Eat in Early Fall?

Early fall is time for brook trout to stock up for the spawn. Most of the time, spawning requires a grueling upstream journey, and before the trip brook trout are very active, eating everything from midges and nymphs to minnows, tadpoles, worms and even the occasional smaller brook trout.

What Do Brook Trout Eat in Fall?

Brook trout eat a variety of species during the fall, and the main options are midges, nymphs, and minnows. After spawning, they’ll eat fish eggs as well.

When Do Brook Trout Feed?

Brook trout eat constantly throughout the day. Weather and seasons dictate what brook trout will eat, but they eat all throughout the day and night.

What Do Brook Trout Eat at Dawn?

Brook trout are very active at dawn and will eat a large variety of food, and they will especially not shy away from an unsuspecting crayfish, minnow, frog or salamander in the early morning hours. They will also eat most nymphs or midges that float past them.

What Do Brook Trout Eat Midday?

Depending on the season, brook trout will be slightly less active midday and will often retreat to deeper pools for protection and to sip on emerging nymphs and midges.

What Do Brook Trout Eat at Sunset?

At sunset, you will often find brook trout eating caddis and mayflies off the surface of a lake or stream. They will also be eating nymphs and midges that are rising through the water column on their way to the surface.

What Do Brook Trout Eat at Dusk?

Brook trout will eat a variety of different species as night settles. The most common are mayflies, caddisflies, moths and midges.

What Do Brook Trout Eat at Night?

Throughout the night, brook trout will continue eating, though not as frequently as during the day. Their main prey at night are mice or worms that are active at night and fall into the stream or river.

A Brook Trout’s Diet Changes with Its Environment

A brook trout’s diet will change based on a variety of factors, with the main one being the environment where it lives. Brook trout can live in multiple different bodies of water as long as it’s cold and extremely oxygenated. As long as those two factors are met, there will be plenty of food options available.

brook trout diet

What Do Brook Trout Eat in Lakes?

In lakes, brook trout will eat a variety of minnows, frogs, sculpins, turtles, and even the occasional smaller brook trout. They will also eat a variety of stillwater insects like midges and beetles.

What Do Brook Trout Eat in Rivers?

Brook trout have a variety of options available to them in rivers. Earthworms, leeches and minnows are staples for river-dwelling brook trout, as well as larger insects like stone and salmon fly nymphs.

What Do Brook Trout Eat in Ponds?

Brook trout living in ponds will feed on frogs and crayfish that inhabit those waters, as well as small minnows, snails, mussels, scuds and sowbugs.

What Do Brook Trout Eat in Small Creeks?

Brook trout found in small creeks will eat many different species with the most common being midges and nymphs. They will also eat large amounts of mayflies and caddisflies as well as ants and eggs of other spawning fish.

In Conclusion

Brook trout have a large diet. There are multiple species they will eat in a given day depending on the weather conditions, environment, season and time of day. However, the ones that are most commonly consumed throughout the year, regardless of the above factors, are midges, nymphs, may and caddisflies, and minnows.

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My name is Danny Mooers and I’ve been fly fishing for five years. As soon as I went to college, I dove headfirst into my obsession for fly angling. Every spare weekend or long break was dedicated to finding fish. I’ve fished all over North America in search of trout, salmon, steelhead and everything in between. I currently write articles for Guide Recommended and Reel Adventure Fishing. Fly angling is one of the most challenging yet rewarding hobbies any person can have. Don’t be afraid to give it a try.  It’s an addicting activity that tests everything from your fine motor skills to your patience, but it’s well worth your time.

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