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Old 10-30-2009, 06:51 PM
ZachMatthews ZachMatthews is offline
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This has been a very interesting thread. I particularly enjoyed reading Jim's and the others' recollections from the pre-1980s. One thing I haven't seen mentioned yet (with respect to the absence of larger rainbows in the park) is the effect of changes *outside* park boundaries.

On the North Carolina side, practically every drainage eventually communicates with Fontana Lake; I know rainbows from the NC lakes are capable of making astonishing runs into the mountains to spawn, and I've witnessed large holdover 'laker' fish in those streams as late as May (the spawning runs seem to kick off around late December). When were lake trout introduced to Fontana Lake? (I'm talking about squaretail (or really forked tail) lake trout from the char family, not rainbows or browns). I've heard they're in there; lakers can get big enough to swallow a 20" rainbow whole in one bite (seriously), and some loss of larger rainbows on the NC side could be due to them.

Meanwhile, on the Townsend side, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that stocking and especially 'supplementing' or feeding of rainbows was occurring in the Little River in the 1960s and 1970s there in town; with increased development has come increased runoff and that has to mean the water temps of the Little River in Townsend and heading out toward Maryville have gone up. Again, rainbows making spawning runs out of stocked or fed water would account for a lot of larger fish up high which may now be missing.

Then as most people have mentioned there's acidification. The forests have grown so in theory the water should be cooler and better for trout, but with the pH skewing so badly in recent years, that's going to counteract the effect of better tree cover. Finally, I agree 100% with Jim about the rivers being held too close to carrying capacity by well-intentioned but ultimately counterproductive catch and release.

I would be willing to bet that if the Park Service instituted a mandatory catch-and-kill policy for all (rainbow) trout caught in the Park for one year (similar to what has been done to lake trout in Yellowstone and Shoshone Lakes), we'd see much larger fish. I bet the catch rates wouldn't decline that much either - it is much easier to target and land fish in the 12-20" class than in the 4-8" class; they simply have to have more room to maneuver and thus they occupy more open lies.

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Old 10-31-2009, 07:58 AM
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bones bones is offline
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I can't remeber who it was, but someone hit on what I think is the main culprit; Acid rain. The high PH and general lack of limestone can hurt the fish in a bad way. I have seen it in two streams in the Shenedoah that are virtually devoid of fish now and the ones the do linger on are of a dimunitive size.

All trout to my understanding absorb a lot of the minerals i.e. calcium through osmosis in their respective waters thus adding to growth. Acid rain helps to block that process and erode those minerals from the soil and rock. It is also an inhibitor for the bugs the fish feed on.

Adding crushed limestone to stream headwaters helps, go to the St. Mary's River in Va and you will see a stream that has bounced back, but it is and expensive process.

On a side note I have only fished the Smokies the past five years and may be talking out of the side of my neck, but I am very impressed with the fishery. I have caught several 'bows from Middle Prong Little River and Greenbrier that topped ten inches. I also thought SA brookies were supposed to be smaller than their northern strain cousins and have been extremely suprised to catch brookies up to ten inches on Walker Camp, Road Prong and Cosby. Actually the average fish on my last trip in July was 6 to 7 inches.

On thing I'd like to know is why the fish inparticularily the brookies almost all but shut down in the winter. is this part of their southern strain heritage. As a kid growing up and a 37 year old man visiting his home in Va the brookies in the SNP of va will eat as long as the pools are not iced over.

Have a Good 'Urn,
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