Elm Creek (2008)
Fisheries Survey Summary
Elm Creek, located near the Village of Randolph in west-central Cattaraugus County, supports a fishery for wild brown trout. The stream is managed with a year-round fishing season, with the time period from 10/16 to 3/31 restricted to catch and release fishing with artificial lures. This regulation took effect in October, 2006. The stream has good water quality for brown trout in its lower two miles. The upper five miles of the stream are negatively affected by shallow flood control impoundments which warm summer water temperatures above favorable limits for wild brown trout. There are 0.4 miles of public fishing easements on Elm Creek, with another 0.5 miles in a village park. Posting was not evident along the stream in the lower two miles.The stream was surveyed by the DEC Fisheries Unit along with angler volunteers in September, 2008, at three sites to assess the status of the brown trout population.
Prior to 1996, the stream was negatively affected by surface overflow from a shallow, 15 acre impoundment, located on Elm Creek's major tributary, The Ram. In 1996, the pond drained due to a dam failure and the dam has not been replaced. Since the dam failed, summer water temperatures have improved greatly on The Ram and in Elm Creek. Water temperature monitoring on Elm Creek in July, 2008, using automated recording thermometers, showed that water temperatures rarely exceeded 70 degrees in the lower two miles of stream. Overnight water temperatures in the lower two miles always fell into the low to mid 60's. This is a rich stream, with fairly good trout habitat, primarily made up of undercut banks and large woody debris jams. The primary substrates are cobble and gravel. This stream appears to be quite stable with good riparian buffers in most areas and very limited evidence of eroding banks or channel migration. In places, past channelization, in the name of "flood control" is evident.
In a 1991 survey of Elm Creek, we found an estimated 360 yearling and older wild brown trout/mile, with that number almost doubling to 635/mile by a 1997 survey, likely due to the improved water temperatures in The Ram and Elm Creek following the dam failure (Table 1). The biomass of yearling and older brown trout also almost doubled over the 1991-1997 period. In a 2000 survey, the wild brown trout population remained nearly stable from 1997 (Table 1). Based on the continued high wild brown trout population, the stocking of hatchery trout was removed beginning with the 2001 season. A 2003 survey of Elm Creek showed another large increase in the wild brown trout population (Table 1). This increase was likely due to the cessation of trout stocking in the creek.
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In 2008, we sampled fish at the same sites as the previous years. We found a slight decrease in the abundance and biomass of wild brown trout from the 2003 survey to an estimated 946 yearling and older fish/mile (127 lbs/acre) (Table 1). This decrease was likely due to poor production of the 2006 and 2007 year classes and was likely weather related. In the 2008 survey, the wild brown trout we handled featured some large individuals with eight fish over 15 inches in length captured, the largest being 21.3 inches long.
Along with sampling Elm Creek, we also sampled a site on Elm Creek's major tributary, The Ram. This stream had previously been surveyed in 1992, 1997, 2000 and 2003. Prior to 1996, the stream was negatively affected by surface overflow from a shallow, 15 acre millpond. Since the pond drained due to a dam failure in 1996, maximum summer water temperatures have not been recorded above 66 degrees.
The wild brown trout population in The Ram appears to have responded positively to the improved water temperatures. The trout population decreased slightly from the 1992 to the 1997 surveys (Table 2), likely as a result of the flood and heavy sediment loading following the dam failure in 1996. In both the 2000 and 2003 surveys, the wild brown trout population showed substantial increases (Table 2), rising from an estimated 267 yearling and older fish/mile in 1992 to 682/mile in 2003. In this year's survey, we found an estimated 632 yearling and older fish/mile. This is very close to the 2003 estimate (Table 2). The estimated biomass of yearling and older wild brown trout in The Ram this year was substantially higher than 2000 or 2003 (Table 2). The adult trout population this year had several good sized individuals, with three fish over 14 inches long captured and the largest being 15.5 inches. There are currently no public fishing easements on The Ram, however there was no posting evident at the time of the survey. Anglers wishing to fish the stream should ask permission of the landowners.
|YEAR||NUMBER PER MILE||POUNDS PER ACRE|
Overall, Elm Creek and The Ram continue to support a high abundance and biomass of wild brown trout that is capable of supporting a quality wild trout fishery in an area of the region with limited wild trout resources. Both streams are recommended to be surveyed again in 2013 to continue monitoring the status of its wild brown trout population.