The Fish

At the time of European exploration Patagonian waters were completely devoid of salmonids, but the fact that conditions in the region’s rivers and lakes were perfect for them did not escape notice for long.

The Fish of Patagonia

Just before the turn of the twentieth century, Patagonian explorer Francisco P. Moreno propositioned the Argentine government to develop a program for stocking the thousands of miles of pristine watersheds in the south of the country with trout and other game fish. The government responded, commissioning fisheries experts from North America and Europe to develop a hatchery and stocking program that commenced in 1904, and proceeded over the following three decades to distribute a variety of game fish species throughout the region. Of all the fish introduced, it was the trout that found their way into a lasting niche in the Patagonian ecosystem, quickly out-competing both the native fish and the other non-native species, and creating what many since have called the most productive trout fishery in the world.

RAINBOW TROUT (Oncorhynchus mykiss)

Rainbow Trout, natives of the higher latitude Pacific drainages of North America and far-East Asia, are the most prolific of the introduced species in Patagonia, thriving on an abundance of insects, scuds, and other forage in most of the region’s rivers and lakes. Average sizes vary considerably by watershed, but in many Patagonian lakes and streams specimens of up to and above 30” are not uncommon.

Rainbow Trout

BROWN TROUT (Salmo trutta)

Brown Trout, originally natives of Eurasia, are the second most abundant species of salmonid in Patagonia, both in freshwater and anadromous (sea-run) forms. Highly aggressive predators, both strains grow to enormous proportions in the fertile Patagonian watersheds they inhabit, feeding on the ample supply of large forage species such as minnows, smaller fish, and even rodents.

Brown Trout

BROOK TROUT (Salvelinus fontinalis)

Brook Trout are natives of the Appalachian mountain range of North America. Not actually a trout at all, but a member of the char family of salmonids, brookies are descendants of an ancient anadromous species deposited more than 60,000 years ago in the high lakes and streams of the Appalachia from Canada down to Georgia. Brook Trout in Patagonia now exist in a variety of lake and stream environments, with specimens of up to five pound common, and a few isolated populations frequently reaching even greater size.

Brook Trout
Illustrations by Duane Raver, US Fish and Wildlife Service
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