Three morphotypes of brown trout have been described from Lough Melvin in north-west Ireland: gillaroo; sonaghen; ferox. The extensive genetic differences among the three types indicate that they are reproductively isolated, i.e. separate stocks of trout. For example, only gillaroo possess the Ldh-1(n) allele. Ferox show a high frequency of the Ldh-5(100) allele and this allele does not exceed a frequency of 0.02 in the other two types. Sonaghen are characterized by relatively much higher frequencies for Ck-2(115) and Gpi-2(135) alleles. Sampling over a period of 7 years and experiments with artificial stocks of gillaroo and sonaghen have demonstrated that these differences are temporally stable. On the basis of observation of mature adults and the genetic composition of fry samples, it has been shown that the three types maintain their genetic integrity as the result of their distinctive spawning habits with gillaroo spawning in the lake and outflowing river, sonaghen in the smaller inflowing rivers and ferox in the deep downstream section of the largest inflowing river. The ferox is a relict population of an early post-glacial trout colonist while gillaroo and sonaghen are representative of a more recent independent colonization. However, it cannot be determined at present whether or not gillaroo and sonaghen were already differentiated prior to colonizing Melvin although the weight of evidence favours a sympatric split. It is proposed that the three types of trout be designated as separate subspecies to highlight the need for independent management and urgent requirement for conservation action.