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Brook Trout Management Study in Western Maryland
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Most of us are interested in wild brook trout management. In western Maryland, the state DNR is studying brook trout and experimenting with C&R and prohibition of bait fishing in one of the brookie's last strongholds in that state. Nevertheless, conditions are similar to much of the more remote areas of PA and the study may put in some perspective our own brook trout enhancement program.
The short version is that C&R and artificial lure only regs do seem to be beneficial although gains are tough to measure due to weather extremes in recent years which have harmed recruitment.
Anyway, if you're interested in brookie management.....this is an interesting read.

Maryland Brookies

Posted on: 2013/2/13 16:53


Re: Brook Trout Management Study in Western Maryland

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An interesting Study. I would have no problem with zero harvest of brookies. Unlike some folks I feel that if a resource has the ability to produce larger brook trout that the larger Brookies would to some degree control the numbers of smaller fish once you have a sustainable population. I would also like to see more CR artificial only regs with a barbless hook stipulation to further facilitate quick releases that minimize stress on hooked fish.

While this is a good study the University of Maryland did a great multi-year study a number of years ago that was much more extensive and complete. At that time there was still a decent population of Brook Trout in the Gunpowder Watershed as well, but those fish are mostly gone except for a handful of small creeks and most of those brookies are under 6". At that time they study found summer run off from land areas with more that 4% hard surfaces like homes, cement, concrete, mccadam, spiked stream temperatures which killed brookies, sediment problems from farms degraded spawing and feeding habitat, acid rain and snow, were all contributing factors, however the biggest factor was competition from invasive species like brown trout and smallmouths that out competed brookies for food, breeding grounds, and most important the winter sancturary areas brookies needed downstream in the deeper holes which they need if they are to attain any decent size.
Interestingly enough the last two hurricanes have washed/flushed many of the wild brown trout out of the Little Falls which is a tributary of the Gunpowder and this Winter for the first time I found some larger wild brookies wintering over in the larger holes in the Little falls. They must came down into the river from the few small creeks that support them. I also noticed a big increase in the number of young of the year fallfish now that most of the small, medium, and large wild brown trout are gone. Many of those wild browns from the Little Falls ended up being flushed down in the Gunpowder and they can't get back above the Falls on the Little Falls. It is interesting to see the brookies take advantage of these vacated areas, however in time I know the brownies will repopulate the Little Falls and the brookies will lose their winter sanctuaries again. Interestingly some smallmouths held in the stream even with the extreme floods and Maryland in their infinite wisdom is now restocking them in the Little Falls a long with brown trout. I guess they did not read the Study, or they are they don't know about the brook trout.

Posted on: 2013/2/13 18:47


Re: Brook Trout Management Study in Western Maryland

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Excellent information.

Posted on: 2013/2/13 18:49
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Re: Brook Trout Management Study in Western Maryland

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Wow!
Sampling of scientific literature on hooking mortality in salmonids
Natural bait - Range 20 - 90%
Artificial lures and flies - Range 0 – 9%

Posted on: 2013/2/13 18:52
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Re: Brook Trout Management Study in Western Maryland

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OF all the places that I have caught large brookies browns were NOT the dominant species in those streams, in other words brookies were dominant and there was very little fishing activity on those streams. I'm not saying that brookies and browns can''t coexist, just saying that brookies have to be the dominant species.

The fact that these places don't have a lot of fishing pressure, leads me to believe that harvest is an issue where brookies don't grow larger then 10 inches. But habitat and weather events override everything. All of the streams I've caught large brookies in have had excellent habitat.

Posted on: 2013/2/13 18:58
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Re: Brook Trout Management Study in Western Maryland

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While the bait fishers claim otherwise I am not surprized by the results of the study. It is why I stopped using bait 30 years ago for all species except for salt water species I plan to harvest. Even then I use circle hooks so I can selectively harvest.

Posted on: 2013/2/13 19:03


Re: Brook Trout Management Study in Western Maryland

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I call bull on the 90% mortality rate of using bait with trout. I agree it would be an order of magnitude larger than using artificial lures. But the study (Warner, 1979) states that the mortality rate on deeply hooked fish, in which the hook was removed, was 90%. That is a sub-sample of all the fish that were hooked with bait (50 out of 1221, 90% of the 50 died, which is NOT the same as 90% of the 1221). Abstract here. The same holds true for the Mason and Hunt (1967) study. The mortality rates overall are much lower if the hooks are left intact (67% of the trout survived), while hooks that were removed caused mortality in the fish at a rate of 88.5%. It just seems a bit sensationalist to me to include a picture of a dead brookie, with a caption stating that a snelled bait hook is in it's throat and then to selectively cite the scientific literature for mortality rates, picking the highest of the statistics, in the most likely scenario where the fish will die.

Regarding the study itself, its really tough to draw hard and fast conclusions about what influences the size of the fish, when recruitment rates and drought and flood events occur during the study. A single event may have more of an effect than angling pressure (with an emphasis on the may - I don't know that a drought is more detrimental to a trout than I or my fellow anglers is). It's equally hard for me to see if the Wild Brook Trout Enhancement program is working in PA - its not something you can effectively evaluate and quantify, if there are wild swings in variables such as weather or recruitment. You need a longitudinal study, over much more than 5 years, to draw any accurate conclusions.

Posted on: 2013/2/13 19:38


Re: Brook Trout Management Study in Western Maryland

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I like the study, and have fished at least one of the studied MD streams. It had some bigger brookies, and was a bigger stream than most of the PA WBTEP streams I am familiar with. My guess about the small size of brookies in remote PA streams: it primarily results from habitat, more than harvest or hooking with bait. You can hike way out there and the small brookie streams have small brook trout. Find better habitat ina stream with brookies, and there may be some bigger brookies, even if access is not that bad.


Posted on: 2013/2/13 22:31


Re: Brook Trout Management Study in Western Maryland

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I spent two summers in the late 70's working in that area of MD. It was based in Oakland but we worked all over western Md and parts of WV. There are some real nice streams with wild or native brook trout in them in that part of Md (panhandle). The Potomac National Forest runs through there and the streams within the Park at that time , were under several special regulations , it was the late 70s , so i'm betting that there have been a few changes in the regs since then. One of the regs on the stream we were working alongside was artificial lures only. We came into contact with the Wardens who patrolled the Park (DCNR?) several times a day , and i made friends with a couple of them who were working their summer breaks from school there. Both of them fly fished and practiced C&R and i remember them discussing studies that had been done on mortality rates of released fish , i have to assume because of the time period , they were referring to the Mason & Hunt study. Whatever they do as a result of the "New" studies , if anything , i hope those streams get the protection they deserve , as the wild brookie streams they showed and fished with me were some of the nicest i've ever seen.

Posted on: 2013/2/14 7:19


Re: Brook Trout Management Study in Western Maryland

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I personally killed a lot of trout on C&R artificial only waters using inline spinners...even with the barbs crushed. I noticed I would kill more rainbows then browns. It seemed as if rainbows were more prone to getting hooked in the gills. That was when I first got into trout fishing. I cant recall one time that I've killed a trout fly fishing besides culling for a rare meal. Not once have I deep hooked at trout. There's no doubt that fly fishing has a much lower mortality rate then the artifical lures that I used.

Posted on: 2013/2/14 9:13
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Re: Brook Trout Management Study in Western Maryland

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I was down there in the summer of '11 when they had the drought conditions there. I was shocked at all of the stream beds that were nearly dried up.

Posted on: 2013/2/14 12:31


Re: Brook Trout Management Study in Western Maryland

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It is worth remembering that unlike in suburban enironments, this area does not suffer because of impervious surfaces. And unlike quite a large portion of Appalachian mountain areas, including much of the streams that feed the North Branch Potomac just a few miles to the southwest of the Savage, it does not suffer from AMD in most of the watershed. Add to that the ruggedness of the area and it makes it quite alarming that brook char there would be struggling.

Alarming because this is a rare speck of green in a massive sea of red on the EBTV map shown on page 4. There are precious few anywhere in the Eastern U.S., and this is the only one in MD.

BTW, MD has not raised brook trout in their hatcheries in ages, so if you catch one in MD, it is almost certainly wild and 20 years removed from the influence of hatchery genetics, often more. The exceptions obviously would be the stocking done by border states.

Posted on: 2013/2/14 12:48


Re: Brook Trout Management Study in Western Maryland

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Looking ahead to a middle-distant future that's entirely possible, I've been wondering about how native and wild trout habitat might be maintained in the face of increasing extremes of flood and drought.

A few things that come to mind: finding ways to divert and/or impound water from headwaters streamflows at times of high flowage, and then using the stored water later on during the summer to augment stream flows, perhaps by controlled releases. I'm imagining small reservoirs and cisterns akin to beaver dams, perhaps covered from sunlight or even built underground.

I've also thought about the possibility of simply covering over stretches of stream footage in order to offer more shade- either partially, or completely from bank to bank.

I initially started thinking about this in relation to Western headwaters streams, like those in the California Sierra. If there's a long-term trend toward a big drop in snowpack that's replaced by a large increase in rainfall there, it may become necessary to do some human-constructed alterations to compensate for the effects. Ones that work, and aren't stupid. Lots of little projects, instead of massive channelization and impoundment schemes.

Posted on: 2013/2/14 17:39


Re: Brook Trout Management Study in Western Maryland

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I can't agree that the environs described in this summary are in the least similar to the more remote or more accessible areas of Pa. Reproduction is rarely a limiting factor in those areas, with the exception of streams suffering from substantial acid deposition problems. I have never found a population of wild brook trout in Pa that was dominated by adults as described in the summary and those with a failed year class or near-failure of same usually display within their age/size structure evidence of a previous strong year class. What is more common in Pa is to have low densities across all year classes in marginal brook trout streams. While year class failures can occur repeatedly, that situation is not the usual one in Pa brook trout populations where, in my experience, there is frequent evidence of a previous strong year class or two within the populations.

As for Pa's Brook Trout Enhancement Program, it was never stated that any of the streams placed under those regs were placed in the program because of a problem with reproduction. There was an angler-perceived problem with harvest. Years of field experience and the statewide wild trout angler use and harvest study told the biologists otherwise. And in a recent test of some of the Brook Trout Enhancement waters and their control(s) angler usage throughout the season was documented and confirmed to be low...just as low as that found in the statewide wild trout angler use and harvest study, adding further support to the results of that study.

Posted on: 2013/2/14 20:40


Re: Brook Trout Management Study in Western Maryland

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But there are hardly enough streams to get a read on WBTE and what's going on with them. There are thousands of brook trout streams and there are 9 streams in the program.
Please understand Mike, that I'm not singling you out, but I have a problem with some things that PFBC does.

Posted on: 2013/2/15 11:33
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