German Brown Trout vs. Brown Trout: Browns Explained

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Spotty Brown Trout.

In the United States, anglers land German brown trout, Scottish brown trout, and hatchery-raised brown trout. Experts say that German brown trout have red spots mixed with the others, and Scottish brown trout have fewer red spots and more black. Today, brown trout have mixed genetics, and it’s difficult to tell their true heritage.

For most of my angling life, when I caught brown trout, I’d look at them, take a picture, and return them to the water. The different species types didn’t matter to me. It wasn’t until I noticed differences in the brown trout I was landing in the Driftless Region that I decided to pay attention. 

German Brown Trout 

Government officials first introduced brown trout to the United States in 1883. The brown trout fry entered the Baldwin River and eventually were stocked or found their way to rivers nationwide.

The strain of brown trout introduced into the Baldwin was the “von Behr.” The von Behr strain is German. Biologists took the eggs from streams and lakes in the Black Forest area of Baden-Wurtemberg. 

Over 9,500 fry were taken from the Northville Hatchery in Michigan and placed into the Baldwin River. The Baldwin is a tributary of the Pere Marquette, one of the best brown trout fisheries in the United States. 

Today, German brown trout are found all over the United States. While finding a pure German brown trout may be next to impossible, there is von Behr blood in many of the brown trout we catch throughout America. 

The exact appearance of the von Behr brown trout introduced to the Baldwin River is unclear. Many anglers and experts claim that German browns have more pronounced red spots spread amongst the rest of the spots on their bodies. 

Different Brown Trout Species 

Officials didn’t take long to place other brown trout strains in American waters. Hatcheries and government officials traded with other European countries for more brown trout eggs. American officials sent native fish eggs to Europe, and we’d receive brown trout eggs in return. 

Scottish Brown Trout 

Scottish brown trout, known as the Loch Leven strain, were introduced into American waters in 1885. Three hatcheries across New York and Michigan received the initial shipment of Loch Leven eggs. Hatcheries grew the eggs into fry and released them into suitable waters. 

Today, Loch Leven brown trout are found all over the Eastern United States. I land many German and Loch Leven trout in the Driftless Region in Wisconsin. Local anglers and guides tell me that German brown trout have more red spots, and Loch Leven brown trout have more black spots. 

Again, the brown trout genetics throughout America are extremely mixed, so it’s difficult to know what fish has more connection to Scotland and Germany. 

Big trout caught fly fishing in Norway.

Hatchery Grown Brown Trout 

By 1900, over 35 states had brown trout stocking programs. Today, nearly 40 states have regularly stocked brown trout populations. Local hatcheries incubate the eggs and raise them until they can enter the waters and survive. 

These fish have mixed genetics. They have hints of German, Scottish, English, and other European brown trout populations mixed into one fish. 

Brown trout defy the flow in a pure creek.

Mixed Genetics

Once the brown trout establish themselves in lakes, rivers, and streams, they’ll mate with one another regardless of genetics. 

Female brown trout prepare to spawn in the fall regardless of their heritage. Male brown trout wait to fertilize the eggs, and their DNA gets even more mixed. Every year, brown trout populations are even more detailed than the last. 


While Europe, Asia, and Africa have native brown trout populations, the United States has brown trout filled with various DNA strains. As a result, it’s challenging to depict what fish is from what specific heritage. Regardless, brown trout are some of the most aggressive and fun fish to catch. We have healthy brown trout populations in over half our states available to land.

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