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Wiscoy Creek Electrofishing and Water Temperature Monitoring (2012)

Electrofishing Results

Nineteen inch wild brown trout captured during Wiscoy Creek electrofishing survey.
Nineteen inch wild brown trout captured
during Wiscoy Creek electrofishing survey.

Introduction

During August, 2012, DEC Region 9 Fisheries staff and many angler volunteers sampled the wild brown trout population in Wiscoy Creek. Wiscoy Creek is located in Wyoming County and is considered to be one of Region 9's premier wild brown trout fisheries. The stream has not been stocked with trout since the early 1970's. Ten sites were sampled, duplicating efforts in 2006 and 2009. Several of these sites on Wiscoy Creek had also been sampled from 1978-2001. In conjunction with the fish sampling, a March-October Wiscoy Creek Angler Diary program was conducted. Water temperature monitoring was also conducted at six of the electrofishing sites in the summer of 2012.

Wiscoy Creek Fish Management

Wiscoy Creek is managed with a 10 inch minimum size limit and a 3 fish/day creel limit during the April 1-October 15 period and then with catch-and-release, artificial-lures-only regulations from October 16 - March 31. In addition, there is a one mile long section managed with catch-and-release, artificial-lures-only regulations all year.

Region 9 Fisheries staff electrofishing Wiscoy Creek.
Region 9 Fisheries staff electrofishing
Wiscoy Creek.

Results

For the 10 sites sampled on Wiscoy Creek in 2012, the abundance of yearling and older (adult) wild brown trout per mile varied substantially from 361 per mile to 1,670 per mile with an average of 1,065 per mile (Table 1). Sites in Table 1 are listed from downstream to upstream. This is slightly higher than the average value found in 2009, but lower than the average value found in 2006 and most previous sampling years. In Table 1, you see comparisons of the numbers of trout per mile each year, at each site and the averages for all sites each year from 1978-2012. An apparent increase was seen in average abundance from 1978 to 1988 surveys for reasons that are not entirely clear, but may have been due to improved habitat, decreased water temperatures and/or a great increase in the frequency of voluntary release of trout by anglers. This was followed by a steady increase in abundance seen from 1991 through 2001, followed by some apparent decrease from 2001 through 2012 (Table 1 and Figure 2). Habitat at all the sites was very similar in 2012 to what we found in 2006 and 2009, so it is unlikely that changes in trout abundance from 2006 to 2012 are habitat related.

Except in the catch and release section, Wiscoy Creek is managed with a 10" minimum size and 3 fish/day limit. The average number of trout >10" per mile (legal size) in 2012 was 334 per mile, while in 2009 it was 233 per mile and 404 per mile in 2006 (Table 2). Although the overall trout abundance was lower in 2012 than in 2006, we did find more, larger trout in 2012. The average number of trout >12" (140 per mile) and the number >14" (51 per mile) were higher than in 2001-2009. In addition, the number of trout >14" was higher in 2012 than in 1997-2009 (Table 2). Similar to 2009, a higher than normal percentage of age four and older fish were captured in 2012, perhaps from strong yearling age classes in 2006 and 2009, which would have been age 4 and age 7 fish in 2012.

Fisheries technician holding 21 inch wild brown trout from Wiscoy Creek survey.
Twenty one inch wild brown trout from
Wiscoy Creek electrofishing survey.

Big Brown Trout Results

The largest wild brown trout we captured on Wiscoy Creek in 2012 was 21.2", with 7 of the 10 sites producing at least one fish >16". We did not see any clear trend in the largest fish in each survey nor at any given site. However, three of the four largest fish captured in a given survey year were in 2006, 2009 and 2012. While large wild brown trout (>15") are always fairly rare in Wiscoy Creek, 2012 did have the highest percentage of the electrofishing catch >15" (3.13%) and >16" (1.94%) than any sampling year back to 1991.

Young-of-Year Results

The catch of young-of-year (YOY) brown trout on a per mile basis varied widely by site for 2012. In general, total catch was very high in 2012. Several sites (Village of Wiscoy, Pond Road, Fairgrounds and Above Bliss) consistently had very low YOY catch over all years sampled. At the sites with long-term data available (Scout Camp, Grey Cabin, Fairgrounds and above Trout Brook), YOY catch appears to be as high or higher than most years prior to the year-round fishing regulations being applied in 2004. At the two sites in the catch and release year-round fishing section, YOY catch also appears to have not been affected by fishing being allowed during the spawning and egg incubation period. It is likely that the patchy distribution of YOY catch indicates certain areas of Wiscoy Creek are more suitable for spawning than others.

Water Temperature Monitoring Results

Throughout the summer of 2012, automated recording thermometers were set at six locations, corresponding to electrofishing sites on Wiscoy Creek. Similar studies had been done in 1997 and 2006. This was another in a series of warmer and drier than average summers, with the May to August, 2012 period being the warmest on record in Buffalo (records dating back to 1874), and the June to August period being the 8th driest on record. July, 2012 was the third hottest in 138 years and July, 2011 was the fourth hottest. Six of the top 20 hottest July's have come since 2000 (Buffalo National Weather Service Office data).

The mean July water temperatures at our monitoring sites in 2012 varied from 66.2 F to 69.1 F. This is above the range reported by studies for streams with the highest abundance of wild brown trout (59-66 F). Data from 2006 temperature monitoring showed similar July average temperatures for main stream Wiscoy Creek temperatures, but in contrast, July 1997 average temperatures at the three sites sampled, were considerably lower (62.6-63.9 F).

Other comparisons of temperature extremes on Wiscoy Creek in 1997, 2006 and 2012, such as maximum high water temperatures, days with high water temps ≥ 70 F, and days with high water temps ≥ 75 F also indicate that water temperatures were far from ideal for wild brown trout growth and survival in both 2006 and 2012. However, while excessively high water temperatures may be playing some role in the decline of Wiscoy Creek wild brown trout abundance since 2001, it is likely there are other mitigating factors involving temperature refuges such as spring seeps or daily temperature cycling that are allowing brown trout to survive and, at some sites, thrive under conditions that appear to be above their optimum temperature regime.

Tables

Table 1. Adult wild brown trout (BT) (age 1 and older) abundance (# per mile) at each site (from downstream to upstream) in Wiscoy Creek electrofishing in 2012, 2009, 2006, 2004, 2001, 1997, 1996, 1993, 1992, 1991, 1988 and 1978.
Site #/mile
2012
#/mile
2009
#/mile
2006
#/mile
2004
#/mile
2001
#/mile
1997
#/mile
1996
#/mile
1993
#/mile
1992
#/mile
1991
#/mile
1988
#/mile
1978
Village of Wiscoy 361 537 1,046 - - - - - 735 - - -
Below Pond Road 368 84 216 369 - - - - - 622 - -
Scout Camp 1,133 947 1,300 - 860 696 1,206 - - 1,415 1,768 549
Susan's Acres - - - - 1,449 - - - - 878 - -
Grey Cabin 509 412 1,254 - 1,021 847 - - - 2,207 1,598 366
1 mi. below Rt 19 - - - - - - - - - - 1,695 207
0.1 mi. below Rt 19 - - - - 1,434 842 - - - 1,390 1,659 402
Fairgrounds 1,404 1,105 1,596 - 1,624 1,022 978 - - 1,683 - -
Below Trout Brook - - - - - 627 1,101 - - 2,565 - 1,341
Above Trout Brook 1,272 811 2,602 - - - - - - 1,262 1,439 415
Upper Wing Farm - - - - 1,459 1,055 - - - 1,024 1,134 524
Route 39 1,670 1,480 1,705 - - - - - - - - -
Lower C & R 1,500 1,318 1,529 - 2,622 2,866 1,706 2,193 1,430 - - -
Upper C & R 1,602 1,581 1,935 - 3,329 2,400 - 2,882 2,164 - - -
Upstream of Bliss 742 1,361 1,310 - - - - - - - - -
Avg. all sites 1,065 956 1,432 - 1,717 1,313 1,293 - - 1,376 1,549 543
Table 2. Adult wild brown trout (BT) (age 1 and older) abundance (# per mile >10", >12" and >14") at each site (from downstream to upstream) in Wiscoy Creek electrofishing in 2012, 2009, 2006, 2001 and 1997.
Site 2012
#/mile
2009
#/mile
2006
#/mile
2001
#/mile
1997
#/mile
>10" >12" >14" >10" >12" >14" >10" >12" >14" >10" >12" >14" >10" >12" >14"
Village of Wiscoy 231 157 93 249 115 48 465 106 74 - - - - - -
Blw. Pond Rd. 96 27 14 11 0 0 0 0 0 - - - - - -
Scout Camp 291 114 73 126 57 11 211 82 27 137 21 11 142 11 11
Susan's Acres - - - - - - - - - 310 74 44 - - -
Grey Cabin 194 37 28 63 45 9 415 190 63 298 122 68 294 112 30
Blw. Rt 19 - - - - - - - - - 388 93 16 375 118 30
Fairgrounds 320 107 44 202 86 38 409 113 10 673 157 29 407 165 33

Blw. Trout Bk.

- - - - - - - - - - - - 252 108 36
Abv. Trout Bk. 360 202 61 189 104 38 620 124 0 - - - - - -
Wing Farm - - - - - - - - - 395 79 0 323 87 16
Route 39 658 244 37 267 134 21 516 40 13 - - - - - -
Lower C&R 435 210 90 327 198 86 467 78 0 1,205 230 34 1,006 327 50
Upper C&R 581 258 43 516 285 77 715 154 0 1,538 290 15 855 348 53
Abv. Bliss 180 22 0 416 113 38 257 13 0 - - - - - -
Avg. all sites 334 140 51 233 115 38 404 93 20 610 130 26 461 158 32