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Old 03-21-2006, 05:42 PM
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Default new brookie rules

Immediate Release Contact: Bob
Miller
Date: March 21, 2006
865/436-1207


Smokies Opens Park Streams to Brook Trout Fishing

For the first time in over 30 years anglers at Great Smoky
Mountains

National Park will be allowed to catch and keep brook trout under new

experimental Park fishing regulations that take affect April 15.

Since 1976 the National Park Service has allowed anglers to fish
for

non-native rainbow and brown trout, but they have been prohibited from

possessing the Park's native brook, or "speckled" trout, or from
fishing in

over 150 miles of Park streams where "brookies" predominate. Rainbows
and

browns were stocked in the Park in the early 20th century after
destructive

logging practices nearly wiped out the native brook trout.

Biologists in the early '70's were convinced that brook trout
were

systematically losing range to the non-native fish and predicted that,

unless measures were taken, the brook trout would only be found
upstream of

natural barriers by the year 2000. Park managers also believed that

fishing pressure was further reducing brook trout densities. In
response

to these concerns managers closed the Park to brook trout fishing in
1976

and initiated brook trout restoration projects in select streams.

Thirty years later Park fisheries biologists have found that

"brookies" are able to co-exist with the non-native trout in 69 miles
of

Park streams. Park fisheries managers have successfully restored 17
miles

of stream to pure brook trout population using a combination of

electro-fishing and through the use of chemicals to remove non-native
trout

from steam segments that lie above waterfalls and other barriers that

prevent upstream movement of fish.

(over)

Brook Trout Fishing page 2 of 3

After over 25 years of monitoring trout and non-game populations
in

fished vs. closed streams, Park biologists had observed that natural

occurrences such as floods and droughts were the major force behind
changes

in fish populations in both open and closed streams. They suspected
that

allowing angling for brook trout would have no measurable impact on
either

their numbers or their average size.

In 2002 Park biologists tested that hypothesis by experimentally

opening eight streams (4 in TN, 4 in NC) to fishing and harvest for 3
years

under the normal GRSM fishing regulations (i.e. 5 fish per day limit,

7-inch minimum size, and single hook artificial lures only). Each
stream

that was open had a nearby control stream which remained closed.

Biologists analyzed population data within each stream (both open and

closed) for three years prior to and three years after brook trout
fishing

was opened.

The study found there were no significant differences in brook
trout

density or the number of legal brook trout brook trout in any stream
opened

to brook trout fishing during the study period. Variation which did
occur

was attributed to natural variation and was not related to open vs.
closed.


In interviews conducted during the experiment over 84% of anglers

said they were moderately to extremely pleased with the brook trout
fishing

opportunity. The largest segment of the anglers (25-27%) cited the

opportunity to catch a brook trout as the main reason for fishing that

particular stream that day. Anglers caught an average of 5-11 fish per

trip, but less than 33% of anglers kept the legal brook trout they
caught.

"Given that we could find no ecological benefit to prohibiting

anglers from taking brook trout," said Park Supervisory Fisheries

Biologist, Steve Moore, "and the opportunity to offer anglers a very

enjoyable experience, Park management has decided to open nearly all
our

streams to fishing."

"So on April 15," Moore concluded, "All but a handful of the
over

700 miles of Park streams will be opened to fishing as part of an

experimental regulation to allow additional time to monitor impacts of

fishing activity.



(continued)



Brook Trout Fishing page 3 of 3



"A few short stream segments will still be closed during
active

brook trout restoration projects. This spring, for example, parts of
Sams

Creek, Bear Creek, and Indian Flats Prong Streams, which have been
recently

restored, will remain closed while those populations continue to
rebuild to

carrying capacity. Once these streams reach carrying capacity, they
will

be reopened to fishing as well."

Park managers say that the experimental monitoring period will

provide them additional time to be sure that the changes in use do not
have

unexpected and negative affects on brook trout. Managers will also need
the

time to complete a required federal rule-making process needed to
change

current provisions in the Code of Federal Regulations which do not
allow

brook trout fishing in the Smokies. In the near future the Park also
plans

to release an Environmental Assessment for public review of the
proposed

rule change.

* * * NPS * * *

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