View Full Version : brooktrout restoration

01-09-2008, 09:46 PM
So I have some questions on the whole brook trout restoration. Not in one place, but in all of the places they are being restored.

So I know that in the beginning of the program for a certain stream they kill all the fishlife with a chemical. Now I say "fishlife" because I don't understand how this chemical only kills trout. I know there are some protected minnow species in the mountains, so what happens to the unlucky other fish species in these trout streams that are nuked? I find it odd, almost ironic, that it is illegal to build things out of rocks that deflect the water flow ( IE, metcalf's shallow water levis) because that could effect the spawn of a sculpin or darter, yet for the sake of brook trout we can kill off a major part of a streams ecosystem.

Now I could be wrong about all of this. If I am, if this chemical somehow only kills trout, i would love to know. It would put my mind at rest.

As a second thought, what about other stream dwelling animals. Frogs, newts, salamnders.... Are they somehow exempt from the chemical killing? Now I have never seen one, but it is very possible that the giant Hellbender salamander could be living in the high elevations of the smokies...aren't they endangered and protected...??

Anyway, just some thoughts on brrok trout restoration. I would like to say that i love brook trout as much as the next guy, but one must wonder if killing a stream is worth bringing them back.... And the rainbows will find a way back up there... they did before, and they will again. So will they do this whole proccess over in 20 years??

01-09-2008, 11:13 PM
As I understand it, the chemical being used, antimycin, has the potential to kill all forms of aquatic life...however, the studies done on Sams Creek (the only stream treated in this way to date) show very limited long-term effects on the invertebrate life forms. In fact, crawfish populations soared after the treatment, probably due to the absence of fish. There were little to no effects on the amphibians. Also, this chemical dissipates rather quickly, plus a barrier chemical is applied downstream of the treated area to prevent accidental application. There is a NPS white paper on the Sams Creek restoration, and it has a lot of detailed information:


As of right now, Lynn Camp is the only stream scheduled for such treatment. Obviously, not every stream is a good candidate for this, and it isn't necessary on others. In fact, my experience this summer seemed to point to the brook trout moving downstream on their own - I caught several where I expected rainbows and browns. Now, the drought might have had something to do with this, but I can think of two streams in particular, on the N.C. side, that seemed to do well despite the drought (good temps and flow) where this mixing happened. I've also read about the possibility of the brookies adapting to the presence of rainbows in a book or two.

Finally, this restoration is occurring above a barrier falls - the cascades, on Lynn Camp, so if any rainbows show up in the future in that stretch, it will be via a surreptitious bucket brigade.

01-09-2008, 11:30 PM

I ran into a a surprisingly opposite effect from what you described on the West Prong of Little Pigeon this year. Like the streams you described on the NC side, this stretch of river below the Chimneys trailhead fished well throughout the worst of the drought. But in the case of WPLP, I saw brookies as far down as the Chimneys picnic area and caught quite a few farther up early to mid summer. The later it got, the more prevalent the rainbows were further up the river, even way past the trailhead and I went the last couple of months without catching a single brookie up high. I know PeteCz was still catching brookies up there but they were noticeably absent in the fall when I was fishing. Except for that last stretch in the fall, I was catching close to equal numbers of brooks and bows and they seemed to thrive pretty well in the same waters.

01-10-2008, 12:55 AM
I did notice a similar situation on Cosby; in August, on one of my trips up there, I fished it a day after a heavy rain - it was the peak of the heat, but the rain made the stream fishable. I caught quite a few bows upstream of the campground, where I had previously caught nothing but brookies. Now, I caught plenty of brookies, too, so it wasn't a case of the bows crowding them out, but they were definitely sharing the same stretch of stream. At the time, I speculated it was due to the drought - the normal downstream haunts of the bows were too warm, and they moved upstream for relief. However, I was back up for Thanksgiving, and I had a similar experience...some nice brookies, and some bows mixed in - and this time, I was fishing in the snow.

I'm curious how things will be in March.

Brian Griffing
01-10-2008, 10:50 AM
This may be a stupid question, but I'll send it anyway. After all, I guess there really are no stupid questions... Just stupid people that ask them.
Brook trout, although strikingly beautiful and spirited fish (and delicious, too), are not given the same respect and admiration across the country that they are here. In my family's home stream, which lies in the upper reaches of the Missouri river drainage, all cut-throat must be put back, you can keep two rainbows and two browns, and twenty brookies. Cut-throat are viewed as special. Even though they are a little naive (some would say easier to catch), they are the native species, and so the favorite. So if we want fish for breakfast, we keep a bunch of small brookies caught from beaver pond. It is different here. Brookies are the native trout (char, whatever). But, the thing that makes the brookies in the Smokies even more special is that they are a unique sub-species and found only here. I pray that the Park Service will be stocking only brook trout from the Park, and not introducing another non-native species. I'm sure they are as people much smarter than myself spend years thinking about these things and not just a few minutes in front of a computer.
But, after reading Byron's fishing report the other day about stocking his small creek with brooks from Pennsylvania, I got to thinking about the possibility of hybridization and the dilution of the native strain. Byron, I'm not giving you a hard time. In fact, if I had a stream in my backyard I'd do the same thing, but it did get me thinking.
Some people out west speculate that whitetail deer may eventually breed out the muleys because they can interbreed and the whitetail is a more adaptive species. Could introduced brook trout, even at lower elevations, threaten southern appalachian brook trout in the same manner?

Byron Begley
01-10-2008, 01:30 PM

You make good points and I know you are not picking on me. The brook trout I bought and stocked were northern strain. And we wouldn't want them to ever get into the Park and breed with the Southern strain. The spring creek on my property joins the Little River downstream from the mill dam in Townsend. The fisheries folks in the Park don't think they would enter the Park because they would not be able to jump over that dam. The Park Service is using Southern Appalachian strain trout to re-introduce the species in Lynn Camp Prong and all other restoration projects. We still have Northern Strain populations in the Park but they are separated from the Southern Strain fish by natural barriers (water falls). A lot of the brookies you catch in the Park are Northern Strain. They will remain and co-exist with the rainbows.

I was working with the owners of another stream and they wanted to stock brook trout. The Park Service turned down their request because of the chance they could go upstream and mix in with another population in the Park. At that time NPS didn't know if their population in the Park were Southern or Northern so they didn't want to take any chances. I don't know the status of that now.


You explained the results from the Sam's Creek restoration well. You have done your homework.


01-10-2008, 02:40 PM
Thanks Byron...as you know, the brookies and small streams are my favorite combination. I've read a lot about the Southern Appalachian strain, and just what the genetic status is right now; from what I've seen, most of the brookies in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee are a mixture of both northern and southern strains - as to what proportion, that's almost impossible to tell. Northern strain brookies were stocked in the park above Laurel Falls, before the southern subspecies was even identified by biologists. Here's something ironic - I first got addicted to fly fishing for trout a few years ago, on a trip up to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. Up there, the native brookies are northern strain (it being north and east of the New River, the demarcation line for the two strains); HOWEVER, back in the 50s, brookies from a hatchery in Tennessee were stocked in a few streams on the east slope of the Blue Ridge in SNP, so their "genetic contamination" is coming from the other direction, as it were.

While it is impossible to tell which strain you have in your hands when you catch one, the general impression is that the southern brookies are a bit brighter colored, and also tend to be smaller. Last spring, I got to fish both in SNP and GSMNP in the span of a week, and I could notice some differences - the parr marks, for example, were more distinct in the brookies caught down south. So far, the best brookie I've caught in the park has only been about 7 inches, while I caught I nice 9 inch brookie up in Virginia.

Anyway, I find the whole topic of "specs" fascinating.

01-10-2008, 11:00 PM

You just hit a question I've had in my mind for some time and that relates to the creek that runs through Laurel Falls. Is there actually fishing up in there? It's a pretty nice creek but I had never heard of anyone fishing up there.

BTW, PeteCz and I have both caught brookies in the 11-12" range up in WPLP. I have definitely seen his catch and have caught one that size on my own up there.

01-11-2008, 11:05 AM
Hey Guys, Great topic.

This past year I start developing a Brookie addiction. As Brian pointed out many other places in the country think brookies are trash fish and my thought is that its because they are crowding out other species and are not always native. I think what makes any fish special is whether they are 1) native to that area and 2) if they coexist well with other species.

Does anyone know which streams hold southern strains v. northern strains in the Park. Road Prong and Upper Deep Creek are two stream I hold in particular esteem, but my suspicion, based on the size of fish that I've caught there, are that both hold mostly northern strains (especially near the confluence of RP and Walker Prong)

BTW Charlie, you're sandbagging! You've caught a lot more fish up on WPLP than I have...

01-11-2008, 12:17 PM

You just hit a question I've had in my mind for some time and that relates to the creek that runs through Laurel Falls. Is there actually fishing up in there? It's a pretty nice creek but I had never heard of anyone fishing up there.

BTW, PeteCz and I have both caught brookies in the 11-12" range up in WPLP. I have definitely seen his catch and have caught one that size on my own up there.

Well, a brookie that size is quite an accomplishment in a freestone stream, regardless of the subspecies. The best I have done in the park, for any species, is a 10 inch bow on WPLP - it gave me quite a fight on a 2wt. I seem to get a lot of fish right around that 6-7 inch mark - at this stage of my fly-fishing development, I probably gravitate towards quantity over quality, since my time up in the mountains is limited. However, one fine day, when the kids are out of the house, I can move up to my land in Cosby full-time - the fish had better watch out then...

I've never attempted to fish around Laurel Falls - that area is almost always packed...all I know of it is from a book I read, and according to it, there are fish above the falls.

01-11-2008, 01:43 PM
Laurel Creek above the falls is very tight. In fact the creek is tight down lower also. Last year it wouldn't have been worth it, as for size of brookies. I thought I knew how far ten inches is but in reality it is a longer than you think. Next time you get a fish you think is ten inches, take a tape measure or measure your rod handle, and you will see that most fish you think are ten inches are more like nine or eight. It is easy to overestimate. I don't mean to say that you fine folks are lying, I just know how easy it is to think they are big.

With that said anyone who knows me and especially in the past, how many days I spent on high altitude streams in the park. It took me 8 years until I caught a Brook Trout of 11 1/2 ". That is my biggest to date and it took right above the Chimneys Picnic area on a Joe's Hopper.

This leads me to the next point. I have always caught Brook trout at lower altitude than the general population think they are. I have caught a few as low as Cambell Overlook, which should be barely 2000ft. They can be caught sporadically with easy between Cambell overlook and the Stone bridge at Chimney's Picnic area. They do appear more often upstream of there but they are not as scarce down low as people think.

01-11-2008, 02:13 PM
Hans, are you saying that fisherman stretch the truth?:eek: I can't believe that any of us would stoop so low as to embellish anything...:rolleyes:

This past year I used a very simple system for measuring fish. I measured my left hand from the tip of the index finger to the crease below my palm and found that it was exactly 8". I have a hard enough time catching, landing and releasing fish without a net or any other help in the park so that was the best way for me (plus most fish in the park are below 8", anyway). If the fish is bigger than my hand, I do have a 10" mark on my flyrod, but its harder to measure the fish as they get bigger, unless you take them out of the water and then lay them on a rock or on the bank. Since I hate to take the fish very far from the water (even for a picture) I usually have to guesstimate anything larger than 10".

I'd love to know how folks are able to hold onto fish and stretch a tape at the same time. I realize that we have strayed away from the brookie topic, but was curious on other folks methods of measuring.

My observations from this past year: 98% of the brookies I caught this year were less than 8" and I would say that probably 90% were 6" or less. But there were a larger number between 6 and 8" than I thought there would be. Is it possible that many of the youngest/smallest brookies were weeded out by the drought this summer?

And remember: 58.67% of all statistics are made up...especially during election years....

01-11-2008, 07:22 PM

I've caught quite a few fish up there (WPLP) and quite a few brookies but only one or two in the size we're talking about. I'll have to say that when I caught the one larger brookie (~10.17") up on WPLR, I was a bit surprised. It's color was starting to fade so I would guess it had been in there a while. Since I released it, I imagine it's still up there unless it's gone on to brookie heaven.

I talked with Daniel in the shop today and he said he had fished above Laurel falls and didn't scare up a single fish. He and Ted agreed that the creek below the falls is worth fishing but above the falls, as Hans said, is apparently awfully tight quarters.