Splake (Salvelinus namaycush x Salvelinus fontinalis)

Splake (Salvelinus namaycush x Salvelinus fontinalis)

A member of the charr group of the Salmonidae family, the splake is a distinctively marked hybrid fish produced in a hatchery by crossing a true lake trout female (S. Namaycush) and a true brook trout male (S. fontinalis). This interbreeding does not occur in nature but is initiated by humans and results in a fertile hybrid species capable of reproducing.

Identification

The splake is difficult to identify externally because it resembles different aspects of both parents. The body shape is intermediate between the heavier lake trout and the slimmer brook trout. The shape of the tail is also intermediate.

It is not as deeply forked as that of the lake trout and more closely resembles the slightly indented tail of the brook trout. In coloration and markings, the splake more closely resembles the brook trout. It has vermiculations like brook trout, red-orange ventral fins, and yellowish spots along its flanks.


Size

Splake do not grow as large as lake trout, but they do grow larger than brook trout. Most splake weigh a few pounds, although those from bigger waters with a large forage base may be in the 8- to 12-pound class. The all-tackle world record weighed 20 pounds, 11 ounces.

Life history/Behavior

Although they can reproduce, not all splake do, and some populations lack a suitable habitat for spawning, which is generally rocky reefs near deep water. They also are capable of back-crossing (hybrids mating with parent species), which has occurred in hatcheries but evidently not in the wild. Spawning occurs in the fall, usually in October, on rocky reefs. In the spring, splake are often near tributaries or on gravel shoals, and in the summer they seek deep water.

Food

This omnivorous species eats smelt, white perch, yellow perch, crayfish, insects, sculpin, and other fish.

Other Names

wendigo.

Distribution

Splake inhabit Lakes Superior and Huron in the Great Lakes and various midsize lakes in selected states, from Colorado, Utah, and Idaho in the western United States to northern New York and Maine in the east.
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