Do Brown Trout Have Scales? Brown Trout’s Appearance Explained

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Fish skin, a close look.

Brown trout do have scales. They’re tiny scales that act as protection and friction reducers. A slimy layer covers their scales, and it helps them move through the water more efficiently, but it also assists with respiration and does well to keep out harmful bacteria.

At first glance, brown trout look like smooth-skinned, delicate fish. With some more observation, you’ll find that they’re aggressive and dominate the water where they live. Even with their delicate and elegant appearance, they have more physical detail than meets the eye.

Brown Trout Scales

When I first felt a trout, I was shocked at how slimy it felt. Even with my wet hand, I couldn’t believe their slippery skin. They were far more slippery than other freshwater fish I had handled. I didn’t know brown trout had scales until I looked closely at their bodies. These tiny scales are hard to see without close inspection.

Microscopic hairs cover their tiny scales. When water passes over the hairs, turbulence is created and helps them swim faster. Watching trout dart through the water and feed is fascinating. They’re faster and more agile than many other freshwater fish.

South Dakota's Cool Brown Fish.
Wild Brown Trout in South Dakota

Eating Brown Trout with Scales

Some anglers remove the scales of their brown trout before eating them. If I eat smaller 12- to 14-inch browns, I don’t bother removing them. I spend more time removing scales and cleaning the fish when I eat 18- to 22-inch brown trout. The fish are older, and I want the purest meat I can get. 

To remove the scales, start by washing the fish in cold water. Then, use a descaler or the dull side of a knife. Hold the trout tightly by the tail and push the blade down the side of the fish from tail to gills. This causes the scales to fall right off the fish. 

If you want to be completely safe, removing the scales helps eradicate any potential bacteria living on the fish’s skin. Cooking the rest of the skin removes the rest of the bacteria you could find.

Spotted brown trout have red dots.
Brown trout with bright red spots

Brown Trout Red Spots

Brown trout with red spots are considered part of the German strain of brown trout. The majority of brown trout I have caught have bright red spots. Their colors appear more vibrant during the spawn and when they live in colder water. Brighter or darker red spots don’t mean a fish is extra healthy or unhealthy.

Genetics, time of year, and water temperature affect the trout’s appearance. 

In the Driftless Region in the Midwest, brown trout with red spots are considered “wild.” Trout without red spots are most likely recently stocked fish. They won’t develop red spots until they spend a couple of years in the streams

Holdovers and wild populations of brown trout are the most common trout with brighter red spots.

Sparkling Silver on Wild Trout.
Wild Brown Trout with Silver

Silver Brown Trout

Depending on where you fish, you’ll notice brown trout with silver bodies. They’ll likely have some brown color and spots, but their bodies almost look entirely silver. According to experts and lifelong anglers, their silver bodies are an adaptation to the trout’s environment. 

Their silver bodies may provide the trout with the best chance at survival, so fish have adapted over the years and have more silver bodies than usual. The term polymorphism is what many anglers use to explain how no two trout look the same. You could fish one body of water and pull out a dark brown trout first and a silver brown trout on your next cast. 

Silver brown trout are beautiful. I have caught a few in my many years of fishing for brown trout, and it’s always a pleasant surprise. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Eat Trout Skin with Scales?

Yes, you can eat trout skin with scales. Many chefs recommend removing the scales before eating the fish, but it isn’t necessary.

Does Brook Trout Have Scales?

Yes, brook trout do have scales. All trout species technically have scales. 


Brown trout are some of the most beautiful fish. Their vibrant colors and unique spots give them a special appearance. Their age, environment, genetics, and diet all play a factor in determining how a brown trout looks. You’ll never catch two similar-looking brown trout, so take as many pictures as possible.

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