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Forks Creek (2013)

Background

Region 9 Fisheries staff, together with angler volunteers, completed trout population sampling on Forks Creek in June, 2013. Three sites were sampled, duplicating sites in 1992 and 2001. Five miles of Forks Creek were stocked this spring with 1,800 yearling brown trout. The stream has supported a limited population of wild brown trout in past surveys. Wild brown trout and some brook trout are found in several tributaries. There are no public fishing rights easements on Forks Creek. However, there is little posting along the stocked section of the stream (mouth upstream to Sugartown Road). Sampling in 2013 was done to evaluate trout stocking and monitor the stream's wild trout population.

Electrofishing Results for Wild Trout

In our 2013, mean stream widths at our sampling sites were 27 ft, 28 ft and 36 ft, while flows ranged from 30 to 53 cfs. Site lengths were 830 ft, 800 ft and 600 ft. Adult trout habitat was fairly good at all sites, consisting of log jams, undercut banks and deep pools. The average abundance of yearling and older wild brown trout, for all sites combined, in 2013 was 31/mile and the average trout biomass was 10 lbs/acre (Table 1). In 1992 and 2001, we found 48 yearling and older wild brown trout/mile and 114/mile, respectively. In those years we found 7 lbs/acre of wild brown trout and 8 lbs/acre, respectively (Table 1).

Technician holding 25.5 inch wild brown trout from Forks Creek.
Huge 25.5 inch wild brown trout from
Forks Creek

In 2013, only 13 yearling and older wild brown trout were captured in 2,230 feet of stream. Our most upstream site, which had supported fair numbers of wild trout in both 1992 and 2001 surveys, had only six fish. This finding was very disappointing as the stream's riparian area has been improving through better land use practices (much of stream is now shaded by mature trees) and it was hoped the wild trout population would be improving. Based on anecdotal evidence and the lack of fish, in high quality habitat and fair to good water quality, heavy predation by common mergansers (fish eating ducks) may be limiting the wild trout population in this creek. However, of the few wild trout that were captured, several had reached impressive proportions. Of the 13 wild brown trout captured, we found fish of 17, 19, 20 and 25.5 inches! The latter fish was the one of the largest stream-resident trout ever captured in Region 9 sampling.

Electrofishing Results for Hatchery Trout

DEC staff sampling Forks Creek.
Fish sampling on Forks Creek.

Hatchery trout abundance and biomass in 2013 was very low at only 2/mi and 0.1 lbs/acre. This was a drop from 1992 and 2001 (Table 1). The sampling at three sites in 2013 (corresponding to stocking locations) yielded only one stocked brown trout. As with the wild trout population, predation by common mergansers may be limiting the stocked trout population in this creek. For the time being, we will continue with the same trout stocking policy on Forks Creek. However, updates to the Bureau of Fisheries statewide stocking policy in the near future may cause us to reconsider stocking on Forks Creek, based on the extremely poor survival of the stocked trout.

Table 1. Average estimated abundance and biomass of wild brown trout and hatchery brown trout for all sites combined for Forks Creek in 1992, 2001 and 2013 electrofishing samples.
Year Wild BT (#/mi) Hatchery BT (#/mi) Wild BT (lbs/acre) Hatchery BT (lbs/acre)
1992 48 30 7 3
2001 114 27 8 3
2013 31 2 10 0.1