Spring Brook (2006-2007)
Fisheries Survey Summary
Spring Brook, a highly fertile stream located near Springville in Southern Erie County, was sampled in its lower section by DEC Fisheries staff on October 5, 2007 and in its upper section on July 17, 2006. These surveys were done to collect baseline information on fish populations in the lower section of Spring Brook and to monitor the condition of the wild brook trout population in the upper section of the stream. Upper and Lower Spring Brook are defined and separated by a 12 foot high man-made barrier, impassible to all fish, located just upstream of South Buffalo Street in the Village of Springville. Upper Spring Brook had not been sampled since 1992 and lower Spring Brook had only been sampled once, in 1981, near the mouth of the creek. The lower section of the stream flows mainly through a fairly inaccessible gorge, while the upper section of the stream flows through the Village of Springville, alder swamp and some active farmland. There are no public fishing rights easements on Spring Brook and anglers need to ask permission of landowners before fishing.
The upper section of Spring Brook is unique in western NY. Wild brook trout are the only salmonid occupying the upper stream and it is our largest, high fertility stream where brook trout are found exclusively. The upper stream averages 14 feet in width. The upper stream was electrofished at three sites in 2006. Site one, located in a village park just above South Buffalo Street, produced seven yearling and older wild brook trout in 285 feet. We also captured six other fish species. Habitat at this site as very good. Site two was located at Maple Ave. At this site we captured 12 yearling and older wild brook trout in 288 feet along with eight other fish species. Trout habitat at this site was also very good. At site 3, located at North Street, 12 yearling and older brook trout were captured in 369 feet. We also found seven other fish species at this site. Trout habitat at this site was fair. Three additional sites on the upper stream were looked at, but not electrofished.
In a 1992 survey on the upper stream, there were an estimated 257 yearling and older wild brook trout per mile of stream. In the 2006 survey, we found an estimated 199 yearling and older wild brook trout per mile of stream. The largest brook trout collected in 2006 was 10.6 inches, however seven of the 31 adult brook trout captured were greater than nine inches. No young-of-year brook trout were captured in this survey. A few young-of-year were captured in the 1992 survey. It is likely that reproduction is occurring in small tributaries or in the main stem where cold springs are available.
In the 2007 sampling on lower Spring Brook, we sampled three sites. Site 1 was near the mouth, site 2 was approximately 1000 feet downstream of the Springville sewer treatment plant (STP) outflow and site 3 was 150 feet upstream of the STP outflow. Site 1 was 300 feet in length, had an average width of 20 feet. At this site we captured one 14" wild brown trout along with 10 other species of fish. Habitat at this site was very good, however the streambed was heavily covered with clay sediments and the stream had a moderate amount of turbidity in spite of the area having no significant rain in at least a week. At Site 2, we captured four adult wild brown trout, three adult wild rainbow trout and two adult wild brook trout in 450 feet of stream. At this site the average width was 12 feet. One adult wild brown trout and three adult wild rainbow trout were captured in 150 feet of shocking at Site 3. At all three sites, the stream had good habitat for trout, but there were moderate to heavy layers of clay silt on the bottom and numerous hillsides and streambanks where unstable soils were sloughing into the stream. The wild brown trout captured in the 2007 survey ranged from 7.8"-14.0", the wild rainbow trout ranged from 6.9"-10.5" and the two wild brook trout captured were 5.5" and 11.4" in length. For all three sites combined there were an estimated 44 adult brown trout/mile, 15 adult brook trout/mile and 45 adult rainbow trout/mile. For all three sites combined, the 104 wild trout/mile is about half of what was found in 2006 for the population (made up exclusively of brook trout) in the upper section of Spring Brook (199/mile).
Because of its fertility, Spring Brook has the potential to produce more larger brook trout than most others where they are found in the region. This stream should be able to produce many more brook trout than our surveys have found. The reduced trout populations are likely a result of several factors including warm stream temperatures. In 2006, water temperatures as high as 74 degrees were recorded in the upper stream. High water temperatures are likely due to loss of shade where the stream runs through a golf course, a dairy farm and also due to several large beaver ponds on the upper stream. The second limiting factor is siltation, likely due to beaver activity, poor land use practices throughout the watershed and unstable, highly erodible clay banks on the lower stream. The wild brook trout population in Spring Brook is a unique resource in Erie County and Region 9 that needs further monitoring, rehabilitation and protection.