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Clear Creek (Ellington) (2010)

Fisheries Survey Summary

Overview

DEC surveying Clear Creek with electrofishing equipment.
Electrofishing on Clear Creek.

In late August, 2010, Region 9 Fisheries staff, assisted by many angler volunteers, sampled the wild trout population in Clear Creek. The stream, located near the Village of Ellington, flows for 13 miles through Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties. The stream has 10.4 continuous miles of public fishing rights easements from the mouth upstream. The stream was last sampled in 2005 (it was being stocked with yearling and two-year old brown trout at that time) when a substantial wild brown trout population was confirmed. All trout stocking was eliminated beginning in 2006. Sampling had also occurred on the stream in 1990, 1991 and 1995.

Survey Results

Five sites were electrofished, duplicating those done in 1995 and 2005. A total of 277 yearling and older wild brown trout were captured, yielding a population estimate of 287 within the five sample sites, indicating very good capture efficiency. Moderate numbers of young-of-year brown trout were also captured, mainly at the upstream most three sites. In addition, wild rainbow trout were also captured at two sites. Rainbow trout were first encountered in 2005 at the same two sites.

Fish technician holding 21 inch wild brown trout from Clear Creek.
Impressive 21 inch wild brown
trout from Clear Creek.

In this year's sampling, we found an average of 663 adult wild brown trout/mile compared with 823/mile in the 2005 survey and 303/mile in 1995 (Table 1). The average biomass of wild adult brown trout in 2010 was 88 lbs/acre, which was slightly higher than the 80 lbs/acre found in 2005 and much higher than in 1995. While the overall abundance of wild brown trout was slightly lower in 2010, the biomass was similar because this year the percentage of the trout that were large was substantially higher than in 2005. In 2005, the percent of the trout population greater than 12 inches long was 7% (58/mile), while this year it was 17% (115/mile) (Table 1). The same pattern held true for fish greater than 14 inches. In 2005, 2% (20/mile) were >14 inches and this year 6% (42/mile) were >14 inches. Six of the fish we captured this year were >16 inches long (2% of the total or 14/mile), which was also higher than in 2005. Wild brown trout abundance in all categories was also lower in 1995 than 2010 (Table 1). The largest wild brown trout captured in Clear Creek this year was 21 inches long.

Table 1. Abundance (trout/mile) and biomass (lbs/acre) for adult wild brown trout (BT) and rainbow trout (RT) in Clear Creek (Ellington); 1995, 2005 and 2010.
Abundance 1995 2005 2010
BT RT BT RT BT RT
Total adult trout/mile 303 0 823 3 663 25
Trout/mile >12" 66 --- 58 --- 115 2
Trout/mile >14" 12 --- 20 --- 42 ---
Trout/mile >16" 3 --- 6 --- 14 ---
Biomass lbs/acre 27 --- 80 <1 88 2
Wild brown trout from Clear Creek.
Another nice wild brown trout from
Clear Creek.

In 2010, wild rainbow trout were found at the same two sites (upstream of Ellington) as in 2005. The abundance of rainbow trout does appear to be slowly increasing (Table 1). Substantial numbers of young-of-year rainbow trout were found along with three year classes of adults. The largest rainbow trout captured was 12.4 inches. It is strongly suspected that the wild rainbow trout found in Clear Creek are the result of illegal stocking by anglers.

Overall, the wild brown trout population in Clear Creek remains very substantial and should provide high quality, challenging angling with no stocking of hatchery trout required. If wild rainbow trout continue to increase in abundance, they will also contribute to the angler catch.