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Surveying for Undocumented Wild Brook Trout Populations (2010-2013)

2013 Surveys Focused on Allegheny River Watershed

Quality size wild brook trout from the Allegheny River watershed.
Quality size wild brook trout from the
Allegheny River watershed.

From June to October 2013, two seasonal Fisheries Technicians completed the fourth and final year of surveys on small streams across DEC Region 9, most that have never before been assessed. The primary focus for this work (a part of the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture) was 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 and 2013 work occurred mainly in the Cattaraugus and Chautauqua County portions of the Allegheny River watershed. Now wild trout populations have been identified, the process to upgrade their water classifications, affording them additional legal protection has begun. Additionally, streams will be prioritized for future habitat restoration and perhaps brook trout reintroduction efforts.

2013 Survey Summary

Technician holding large wild brown trout collected during survey.
Large wild brown trout.

During 2013, the crew assessed 202 streams. Of this total, 13 were found to be dry. In the 189 streams electrofished, they found wild brook trout populations in 35 of the streams, wild brown trout in 26 streams and wild rainbow trout in 8 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 - 2013 Survey Summary

Fish sampling in the Allegheny River watershed.
Fish sampling in the Allegheny River

In four field seasons, the entire upper Genesee watershed (297 surveys), the Erie-Niagara watershed (486 surveys), the Allegheny River watershed (789 surveys) and the small slice of the Chemung River watershed (11 surveys) in Region 9 have been completed. Table 1 below summarizes the four years of sampling in this project. A total of 1,583 streams have been assessed since 2010, of which 1,322 (84%) have never been surveyed before. Wild brook trout were found in 194 streams, wild brown trout in 213 streams and wild rainbow trout in 31 streams. Of the 373 streams sampled that contained wild trout, 365 (98%) need to have their water classifications upgraded in order to offer the streams maximum protections from disturbance. Sixty three percent of streams found to support wild trout currently have no permitting requirements for stream disturbance projects. An ancillary part of this project identified man-made barriers, mainly road culverts, potentially impassible to trout and other fish on 279 streams in the surveys.

Table 1. Summary of 2010-2013 small stream surveys in NYSDEC Region 9.
2010 2011 2012 2013 Total
Streams electrofished - no trout found 210 349 232 132 923
Dry / trickle streams - not electrofished 101 79 94 13 287
Wild brook trout only present 33 29 54 26 142
Wild brown trout only present 31 54 50 14 149
Wild rainbow trout only present 0 12 0 5 17
Wild brook and brown trout present 11 16 15 9 51
Wild brown and rainbow trout present 0 8 2 3 13
Wild brook and rainbow trout present 0 1 0 0 1
Totals 386 548 447 202 1583

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