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nvr2L8
06-08-2009, 09:40 PM
When Pete and I ended up by coincidence on LR late Saturday night, we got to talking about the brook trout restoration project. The puzzle we discussed is why Lynn Camp will not be stocked with brookies until the rainbows are "guaranteed" gone when brookes and rainbows co-exist in WPLP and Deep Creek rather nicely. Any opinions on this?

jeffnles1
06-08-2009, 10:13 PM
Charlie,
This is, after all, the government we're discussing. :smile:

Jeff

mtnman2888
06-09-2009, 06:06 AM
I would say the reason is to ensure that there is no chance the rainbows will start taking back over and diminish the brook trout population. While i would agree that a few rainbows probably wouldn't stand a chance of hurting anything, it is probably the "better safe than sorry" ideology. I'm sure a lot of money was spent eradicating the rainbows and they wouldn't want to jeopardize the success of the project by leaving a few rainbows in when they can just take a little extra time to get the remaining few out.

This is just my opinion, however.

pineman19
06-09-2009, 07:05 AM
I agree with Craig. Since in most streams the bows seem to out compete the brookies, they want to ensure that they give give them the best fighting chance by starting at ground zero. They probably figure that eventually some rainbows will work their way back into a restored stream, but if the brookies have taken hold, they will be able to sustain a viable population. It would be much easier to remove any rainbows now, once they stock the brookies their options would be limited.

Neal

PeteCz
06-09-2009, 08:46 AM
The "out compete" part of the equation is really the part that I'm most interested in. I agree that if they are going to do it, they need to do it all the way (eradicate all the rainbows). But my real question is, what basis do we have to say that rainbows out-compete brookies for food, and isn't it just the Southern Strain Brook Trout that have competition problems with the Rainbows.

Isn't it really siltation brought on by logging and acid rain that have diminished the range of our brookies, more than anything else? I'm not a fisheries biologist, but in most areas of the country, Brook Trout are "trash fish" because they out-compete Rainbows and Cutthroat. In fact, in many fisheries you are asked to kill any Brook Trout you catch. Is it just the southern strain that has competition problems? And what about Deep Creek and WPLP. The brookies seem to be holding their own, quite well without any natural barriers.

Just wondering....

mtnman2888
06-09-2009, 09:28 AM
About the "out compete" part, i have heard from several biologists that rainbows and browns will eat into brook trout territory because they are more aggressive with eating. Don't know if this is confined to the southern appalachian brook trout or all brook trout species. I do know of several streams in Tennessee that ask you to throw rainbows out if you catch them as it is predominantly brook trout.

Rog 1
06-09-2009, 10:29 AM
At one point in time there used to be a Genesis theory that the park operated under..."In the beginning"...used this to stop stocking programs within the park and trying to eradicate the pigs....guess in the beginning there were only brook trout in the park....it was the logging that spoiled a lot of trout water for the brookies and led to the active stocking of the rainbows...park used to have a hachery at the picnic area of the chimneys back when it was actually a campground.....a lot of things change...WPLP used to be a sportsman's stream where you could only keep a fish over 16"....back then a 50 fish day was the norm.....it was amazing.

ZachMatthews
06-09-2009, 11:40 AM
Hey guys -

I've been studying this issue for a couple magazines and have talked to Steve Moore about it. I may be wrong, but I think I understand why the NPS is doing what they're doing and I also think it's a very good idea.

Starting way back in the 1970s, the NPS has been shocking various streams clean of invasives, which includes not just rainbows and browns but also northern-strain brook trout. The brookies are losing habitat up high due to acidification (from the coal plants and cars, mostly). Thus, the NPS has been trying to get them back space down lower on the slopes.

Keep in mind that at one point the whole swathe of the Smokies was extensively logged. Sedimentation, siltation, and sunlight penetration warmed the lower streams and killed the brookies out, forcing them higher and colder. Rainbows and browns are way more tolerant of sedimentation and thus they extended their range upwards.

Here's the immediate problem: over the long run, rainbows and browns outcompete brookies by eating their fry, pushing them out of choice holding lies, and consuming resources the already-stressed brookies need to survive. It's a *long run* thing. In the short run, yes, they can co-exist. But, over time, the rainbows will win out.

Thus, when the NPS goes to clear a stream, they *need to get all the rainbows,* or they'll be back doing it again in 20-30 years. That's what happened on the other streams where they had incomplete removal via shocking packs. Use of antimycin (while totally harmless) is still controversial. The NPS is very wise in my opinion to limit the use of piscicides to one time per watershed if at all possible. If they knock all the rainbows out and they're certain of that before they restock with brookies, then they can safely move on to the next watershed. The only way the rainbows or browns would come back, based on where they're selecting for rehabilitation, is if some complete freaking idiot with a bucket decided to restock them himself.

So far the NPS has reclaimed 17.2 miles of brookie water. Lynn Camp Prong will add another chunk to that. Keep this in mind, too: the brookies used to get a lot bigger than they do now. I've seen old stringer pics from the 1920s and before of large brookies taken from the Smokies (over twelve inches) prior to logging. With the forest now substantially regrown, if the NPS keeps working to take back lower, more environmentally robust rivers from the invasives, we stand a good chance of seeing overall size of the fish go up.

Zach

pineman19
06-09-2009, 01:58 PM
The "out compete" part of the equation is really the part that I'm most interested in. I agree that if they are going to do it, they need to do it all the way (eradicate all the rainbows). But my real question is, what basis do we have to say that rainbows out-compete brookies for food, and isn't it just the Southern Strain Brook Trout that have competition problems with the Rainbows.

Isn't it really siltation brought on by logging and acid rain that have diminished the range of our brookies, more than anything else? I'm not a fisheries biologist, but in most areas of the country, Brook Trout are "trash fish" because they out-compete Rainbows and Cutthroat. In fact, in many fisheries you are asked to kill any Brook Trout you catch. Is it just the southern strain that has competition problems? And what about Deep Creek and WPLP. The brookies seem to be holding their own, quite well without any natural barriers.

Just wondering....

I can't buy the logging argument Pete. Maybe 70 yrs. ago, but the forests have all regrown and there hasn't been logging since it became a Park. The biggest factor after logging was the heavy stocking of rainbows. I may be wrong, but I would be willing to bet that there would be more brookies in the Park today if the rainbows hadn't been stocked and the brookies would have a chance to repopulate the streams after they had recovered from logging. As far as acid rain, I don't know enough to comment on that issue. Blaming logging for the brookies current state just doesn't hold any quarter for me IMHO. I am not trying to start an argument, just stating a opinion.

Have fun!

Neal

GrouseMan77
06-09-2009, 03:43 PM
I was able to help out with this project last year on Mark's Creek.

I hate to hear that there was a set back. The amount of work and planning that goes into a project like this is truley amazing.

I think that Pineman summed up the whole purpose for the project: "they want to ensure that they give give them the best fighting chance by starting at ground zero."

Well said.

PeteCz
06-09-2009, 07:33 PM
I can't buy the logging argument Pete. Maybe 70 yrs. ago, but the forests have all regrown and there hasn't been logging since it became a Park. The biggest factor after logging was the heavy stocking of rainbows. I may be wrong, but I would be willing to bet that there would be more brookies in the Park today if the rainbows hadn't been stocked and the brookies would have a chance to repopulate the streams after they had recovered from logging. As far as acid rain, I don't know enough to comment on that issue. Blaming logging for the brookies current state just doesn't hold any quarter for me IMHO. I am not trying to start an argument, just stating a opinion.

Have fun!

Neal

Fair enough. I guess the real culprit of the Brookies limited range in the Park appears to be the fact that after the logging the NPS didn't wait for the Brookies to recover and started stocking it with exotics. I can buy that argument.

But to play Devils Advocate a second (and not to start a fight:smile:), but didn't the stocking programs end in the 70s, and if so, why is it that Rainbows haven't gone all the way up Deep Creek and LR? Surely 40 years would have been enough time to take over. Wouldn't it?

I don't disagree with the Brookie Restoration Program, I whole heartedly support it and have done volunteer work in support of it. I was merely raising a question about Brookies and Rainbows competing.

To Zach's point, the Brookies aren't what they used to be, sizewise. That would suggest that the streams are not of the quality they used to be. Acid rain, siltation, etc. Something has caused the streams to be less productive.

kytroutman
06-09-2009, 07:54 PM
While acid rain and the higher alkaline that appears native in the streams already could be an impact, there is also the stream conditions themselves. From memories fishing in the '70s, there was more water present during the season and the water temperatures were not as high as now.

ZachMatthews
06-09-2009, 08:36 PM
But to play Devils Advocate a second (and not to start a fight), but didn't the stocking programs end in the 70s, and if so, why is it that Rainbows haven't gone all the way up Deep Creek and LR? Surely 40 years would have been enough time to take over. Wouldn't it?

Hey Pete -

I think the problem here is that we don't get to maintain the status quo. The rainbows may have a hard time holding on above a certain elevation (probably 3,000 feet based on where brookies take over) due to cold weather, snows, etc., that the brookies are better able to handle. Brook trout, being a char, have a more northerly native distribution than rainbows, which are at their root a form of Pacific salmon. The only reason we have brookies in the Smokies in the first place is that in the last Ice Age they were able to expand their range into the Southeast, which then had a climate similar to Maine. Nowadays, obviously the glaciers have retearted and the planet is much warmer. The only areas that maintain that Maine-like ecosystem are in the high slopes (around or above 3,000 feet). You can see the same thing with the tree species, most obviously rhododendron and mountain laurel - those are northern plants.

So anyway, the point isn't that the rainbows have failed to invade from below, rather, it's that acidification is eating away the brookie habitat higher up. By the time you get to lower elevations, my understanding is that the stream acts like a natural filter and the water pH improves. Since the brookies are losing that upper slope habitat, the NPS is doing what they can to get them back some of their lower native range from the rainbows.

I think it's helpful to consider the Park as swathes of ecosystem that change with elevation. Below about 2,500 feet, rainbows clearly have the advantage. Above 3,000 feet, advantage goes to the brookies. It's in that 500 foot mid-elevation swathe that they both *could* co-exist, but that rainbows have so thoroughly occupied that there's no room for the brookies. By wiping the rainbows out in places like Lynn Camp Prong with natural barriers, the NPS is buying insurance for the future. In the year 2150 there will still be a GSMNP, but it's not out of the question to think that the brookie habitat will be even more stressed than it is now; if they expand the habitat while they can, they buy buffers against future contraction.

Zach

pineman19
06-09-2009, 08:36 PM
Interesting points, Pete and Kytroutman. As far as the average size of the trout being less, I thought that harvesting of fish for food by the mountain folk might have led to lower stream populations, hence larger fish. Seems I I read that claim somewhere, can't remember where though, it's tough getting old;)

Pete I agree with you on Little River and Deep Creek, especially Deep Creek since it has browns as well at higher elevations. To me, the more common brookie streams are the large boulder streams like Greenbriar, WPLP, Big Creek, etc which have some of the healthier headwaters areas for brookies. Little River and Deep Creek are totally different types of streams in character and in relative fertility as well. Maybe we can get Steve Moore and Matt Culp involved in an "off the record" discussion about this issue. I work as a land manager, and it can be exciting to work in a field where things don't always seem to work as planned, but it can also be a real head scratcher when you can't figure out why it didn't go as planned:biggrin:

Neal

eastprong
06-09-2009, 08:53 PM
In addition to what Zach says about the high elevation streams, it is also a fact that they are naturally more acidic than the lower elevations, probably due to the rock formations. (Acid rain has enhanced this effect.) Rainbows just don't do well in that chemistry. So, basically, the brookies retreated to an "acid buffer" that kept them safe. If the chemistry of the upper elevations was more alkaline, then you would see rainbows all the way up.

Lynn Camp, as a fairly large low elevation stream, is exactly the sort of habitat the rainbows thrive in. Thus, making sure they're all out is the best solution. If it goes well, Lynn Camp's size should provide good habitat for something more than 6" fish.

--Rich

PeteCz
06-09-2009, 11:47 PM
Great posts guys! This is one of the reasons I like this forum so much. Lots of informative exchanges.

The "Acid Buffer" seems to make a lot of sense for a number of reasons. Out west I have fished in streams well above 9000' and the rainbows seem to do fine (as do the Cutts and Brookies), so the elevation and temperature issues should not be a factor here. But the Acid Buffer and the natural cleansing of the stream at the lower elevations seems to explain a number of things...

And the idea of larger than 6" brookies is, of course, very appealing in the future...
:biggrin:

kytroutman
06-10-2009, 07:29 AM
Pete, with the exceptions around parts of the Bighorn and the Powder, which was minimal, I haven't seen the manganese presence like we have in the Smokies. This will affect the alkalinity and the acidic effects on the water.