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Thread: Brook Trout Restoration

  1. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by pineman19 View Post
    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), 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.

    "Even a fish wouldn't get into trouble if he kept his mouth shut."

  2. #12
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    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.

  3. #13

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    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

  4. #14
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    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

    Neal

  5. #15
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    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

  6. #16
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    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...

    "Even a fish wouldn't get into trouble if he kept his mouth shut."

  7. #17
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    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.

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