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Surveying for Undocumented Wild Brook Trout Populations (2010-2012)

2012 Surveys focused on Cattaraugus County portion of Allegheny River watershed

Large wild brook trout from the Allegheny River watershed.
Large wild brook trout from the
Allegheny River watershed.

From June to November 2012, two seasonal Fisheries Technicians completed the third year of surveys on small streams across DEC Region 9, most of which have never been assessed. The primary focus for this work (a part of the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture) is to locate undocumented wild brook trout populations or other wild trout species. This is a federal grant project (Federal Aid to Sportfish Restoration) funded through 2013. Work in 2010 focused on the upper Genesee River watershed. Work in 2011 work occurred in the Erie-Niagara watershed, while the 2012 work occurred mainly in the Cattaraugus County portion of the Allegheny River watershed. Once wild trout populations have been identified, the process to upgrade their water classifications, affording them additional legal protection, can begin. Additionally, streams will be prioritized for future habitat restoration and perhaps brook trout reintroduction efforts.

2012 Survey Summary

Fisheries technician holding large wild brown trout.
Large wild brown trout.

During 2012, the crew assessed 447 streams. Of this total, 94 were found to be dry. In the 353 streams electrofished, they found wild brook trout populations in 69 of the streams and wild brown trout in 65 streams. Wild brook trout in these streams face threats to their existence such as competition with brown trout, elevated water temperatures, and poor land use practices. On the positive side, several surprisingly large specimens of both wild brook and brown trout have been found in these mostly very small streams.

2010-2012 Survey Summary

Electrofishing in small stream in Allegheny River watershed.
Fish sampling in the Allegheny
River watershed.

After three full field seasons, the entire upper Genesee watershed (288 surveys) and most of the Erie-Niagara watershed (421 surveys) in Region 9 have been completed. A large portion of the Allegheny watershed (665 surveys) has also been completed. A total of 1,381 streams have been assessed since 2010, of which 1,172 (85%) have never been surveyed before. Wild brook trout were found in 159 streams, wild brown trout in 187 streams and wild rainbow trout in 23 streams. Of the 316 streams sampled that contained wild trout, 296 (94%) need to have their water classifications upgraded in order to offer the streams maximum protections from disturbance. Man made barriers (mainly road culverts) potentially impassible to trout and other fish were identified on 254 streams in the surveys.

Large wild brook trout from the Great Valley Creek watershed.
Large wild brook trout from the
Great Valley Creek watershed.

This project is planned to continue through 2013. In 2013 we will also be returning to streams where wild trout were found 20 or more years ago to evaluate whether populations are increasing or decreasing in these waters.

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