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Fingerling stockings in limestoners: Pa. and Wisc. (from another thread)

2006/11/10 8:32
Posts: 761
The PFBC's coldwater unit leader, Tom Greene, has been in contact with the Wisc. staff person who has been working on the project...raising wild trout in a hatchery system and stocking them out into streams. The second hand info that I have is that the project has worked best in SW Wisc., where the waters are more fertile (limestoners). There has been mixed to limited success elsewhere.

In Pa.'s case, the good limestoners already support reproduction and the vast majority of the other limestoners are so degraded (little or no habitat for reproduction or nursery/fingerling water) for the most part that even fingerling stockings would not do well. There are few middle of the road limestoners where little or no reproduction occurs yet fingerlings would survive to produce a fishery. Often, the habitat or in some cases the summer temps are so bad that the streams will not support much of an adult population for more than six months, let alone fingerlings.

The opportunities for habitat improvement that would really work to create good habitat for stocked fingerlings or trout reproduction on many of these streams are very limited because of mill dams' legacy sediments that are embedded in or cover the streams' natural bottoms, or line the streams with continuously eroding banks, creating ongoing sedimentation problems on top of the existing substrate problems. Some of these streams have good trout reproduction immediately upstream from the footprints of the former mill dam pools and then nothing (no trout fingerlings or adults to speak of) within the footprints, despite the probability that the dams blew out 50-100 years ago. These habitat effects are long lasting and can't be overcome with stockings in most cases.

RLeeP responded and added:
Based on what I've heard and some conversations I've had with WI fisheries folks, your description of the situation seems pretty accurate, although I was not aware that there was a disparity between success in the SW spring creeks and other places in the state where they've tried this.

One difference (as you sort of note) between the small limestones in the 2 states and their applicability for an effort like this is the dismal habitat conditions on many of PA's small limestones contrasted with a very vigorous stream improvement program in WI that supports and enhances the success rate of the wild fingerling plants. The WI program is supported by their trout stamp money. In fact, I think by act of the legislature, this is the only thing it can be used for. Another thing that helps this program is that stream device/enhancement efforts are often bundled as a "twofer" with soil and pasture conservation projects and hence are more palatable to the landowners, in this case mostly farmers.

Most of the WI-DNR people I've spoke with about this believe the stream work is primary in the success they've seen. They also however, believe that another not insignificant component of the success has been the better adaptive characteristics of the wild fingerlings. Sort of like the "life finds a way" thing from Jurassic Park. And this makes sense too, given that there are a number of streams with pretty limited spawning habitat where no new improvements have been done and where fingerlings from hatchery stock have been planted for many years with no real upswing in the number of wild fish, that have exploded with wild trout and a string of good year classes when planted with wild fingerlings.

All in all, it's an interesting thing to wonder about, IMO.

Posted on: 2009/3/23 9:19

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