Wednesday, August 8, 2018

TU Pennsylvania Route 6 Brook Trout Odyssey Offers Glimpse Of Challenges Facing Brook Trout

By Matteo Moretti

Not very often does a college kid get told that they’ve been selected for an all-expenses paid, three-week long adventure.
So, you know that when four passionate, engaged, and, frankly, pretty quirky fishing geeks were presented with the opportunity to create a life-long connection to the native brook trout that call Pennsylvania’s waters home, there was not a second of hesitation.
Piggy-backing off of National TU’s Costa 5 Rivers Native Odyssey, Charlie Charlesworth, president of PATU, decided to create something similar, but added a further element of scientific education in the form of research.
Behind Charlie, our crew consisted of four crazy fly fishermen that are all officers and/or presidents for their school’s TU Costa 5 Rivers clubs: Myself (Middlebury College), Hunter Klobucar and Tyler Waltenbaugh (Edinboro University), and Christopher Piccione (Colorado State).
Teamed up with Penn State University doctoral student Sara Mueller, our mission for this trip was to understand the story behind native brook trout from the perspective of fishermen, scientists and conservationists.
On May 30, our crew met at Keystone College where we would then embark on our trip across Pennsylvania while following the entirety of Route 6 until June 20.
Over the course of the trip, we learned about the deep history that hides within the vermicular pattern of the brook trout’s marbled back, and to be brutally honest, it is scary.
Brook trout tell a story and their presence or absence in an ecosystem details history – ranging from the effects of secondary growth forests due to 17th century logging, or the current impacts of global climate change.
Aside from being able to fish in places ranging from pristine cascading pools beneath the freeway to remote meandering streams, we also grew as fishermen through our research work with Sara.
Sara’s Ph.D. thesis is looking into determining whether brook trout from different watersheds have genetic and physical differences that cause them to act as different species.
Our research consisted of two main parts: The assessment of previously unassessed waters for unknown brook trout populations for the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission, and fin clippings for Sara’s work on genetics.
The Commission assigned us a list of streams/coordinates to do preliminary assessments of which we were able to complete 17. Many more sites were attempted but certain obstacles such as private land or physical inaccessibility prevented sampling.
Of the 17 streams we assessed, we established that there were four new native brook trout populations and one wild brown trout population.
Through our research of unassessed waters using the technique of electroshocking, we learned about the unlikely places that brook trout populations do and don’t exist.
It was quite an eye-opening experience when we would electroshock a perfect beautiful mountain stream and find nothing, but then find a whole thriving population of brook trout in a roadside drainage/culvert.
By discovering these new populations, we are helping protect our waters for the native fish. Additionally, by collecting fin clippings, Sara hopes that we can unlock any hidden information about brook trout that is currently unknown.
Fortunately, we were able to meet up with and learn from several other groups/ organizations along the way as well.
A site manager from Cabot Oil & Gas toured us around a freshwater withdrawal facility for hydrofracking that constantly strives to be environmentally friendly and conscious.
We spent time with Environmental Science students and professors from Keystone College, Mansfield University and University of Pittsburgh at Bradford and had the opportunity to see what projects they were working on and what material they cover in their classes.
Additionally, we got a glimpse into the work of everyday conservation efforts for native brook trout by US Forest Service Hydrologist Chuck Keeports and Luke Bobnar from the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.
We used forest debris to create a future fish ladder by building up the stream bed in order to reconnect a tributary to a stream that was previously inaccessible due to the placement of a culvert.
Fishing for “brookies” is as much about the fish themselves and their magnificent displays of aggression towards a dry fly, as it is about the places it can bring you and the people it can help you meet.
It is amazing how one fish could bring together such a dynamic and passionate group of individuals.
All of this wouldn’t have been possible if not for the support of Trout Unlimited, DCNR, PFBC, equipment from Cabela’s and REI, as well as funding from Cabot Oil & Gas, Southwest, Seneca and DKLM Energy.
We’re all grateful that we were able to create a long-lasting relationship not only with each other, but also with Pennsylvania’s state fish.
This trip taught us that brook trout are in danger and although we are to blame, no small task goes unseen.
Accompanying our adventure will be an approximately 20-minute documentary that will expand upon this article and will shed light on the problems brook trout face-- bringing our community into conversation.
The documentary is scheduled to be released at the beginning of September so be on the lookout for it!
It’s time to get the story about native brook trout right and let its voice be heard.
Visit the TU Pennsylvania Route 6 Brook Trout Odyssey Facebook page for photos and posts made along the trip.
For more information on programs, initiatives and upcoming events, visit the PA Council of Trout Unlimited website.  Click Here to sign up for regular updates (top of page).  Like them on Facebook.  Follow PATU on Twitter.   Click Here to become a member.  Click Here to support their work.
(*Reprinted from the Summer 2018 Pennsylvania Trout newsletter, PA Council of Trout Unlimited.)

No comments :

Post a Comment

Subscribe To Receive Updates:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner