Lynn Camp Prong Brook Trout Restoration by Byron Begley
Lynn Camp Prong is one of the two larger tributaries that form the Middle Prong of the Little River. Lynn Camp and Thunderhead Prong meet at a place where the town of Tremont, Tennessee was located during the lumbering years. About one half mile up Lynn Camp is a large cascade, which also acts as a natural barrier to stop rainbow and brown trout from migrating upstream.
The stream, above the cascade is very accessible. An old roadbed follows the stream for much of its 8 miles. It was once a stream with a very large population of rainbow trout. Monitoring showed a high concentration of trout. The numbers fluctuated between 1,800 and 2,500 fish per mile. In the headwaters of the stream native Southern Appalachian Brook Trout thrived since the ice age.
This stream has always been in the sights of Park biologists Steve Moore and Matt Kulp as a future brook trout restoration project. It would be the largest restoration in the Smokies and the Eastern United States. When completed there will be between 11 and 12 miles of pure brook trout populations located in a mid-elevation stream. It was determined the total cost would be in the range of $250,000 to $300,000. That money would be raised by conservation organizations and matched with grants.
In 2007 after years of planning and environmental assessments, a fish toxin known as Anamicin was used to remove rainbow trout from Lynn Camp Prong. Monitoring after the initial treatment found isolated remaining rainbows so a re-treatment was necessary. Confident that the rainbows were gone it was time to begin re-stocking the stream. The first stocking was held in July 2009. Steve Moore asked me to come along. It was also a media event. Volunteers from Trout Unlimited were not used this day.
The trout were captured using an electroshocking device at Cosby Creek. Over 350 brook trout were caught and placed in a hatchery truck provided by Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Steve, Matt, six seasonal interns and two Student Conservation Association assistants were there to perform the task. Everything went smooth as usual when these guys do a job.
A large 6-wheel ATV was on site to transport the trout up the trail. Three large coolers were strapped into the bed of the ATV. Clear heavy duty plastic bags were half-filled with stream water, ice made from spring water was placed in the bags, about 50 brook trout were dumped in then the bag was filled with oxygen from a small tank. The bags were sealed and placed in the coolers. When that was completed Steve drove the ATV up the trail about a mile. At 200 to 300 yards apart at pre-determined locations one of the seasonal staff were waiting for Steve to arrive. When he did, they grabbed the bags and walked to the creek, releasing the brook trout in the cold clear water. The guys made Steve stock the first bag. It was all over before I knew it.
This was a historic day and one that was very personal to me. First, Lynn Camp Prong is my favorite stream in the Park. I have spent many days there fishing and stream watching. One day Steve Moore and I fished Lynn Camp taking turns as we moved up the stream. We caught 115 trout that day. Steve caught way more than I did. He and I have been talking about this restoration project for 16 years and it is finally happening.
There will be many more stocking days this year. The job will be done by October. When that time comes the Park Service will be asking for volunteers as it will be a large undertaking.
Then we will walk, watch and wait for opening day. It will probably take three to five years for the brook trout to become a stable sustainable population. Floods, droughts and the success of the spawns will determine the actual time. Brookies will be gathered from several different streams in the Park. It is known that brook trout tend to be “clannish” to their family group in the watershed were they were raised. These clans may not cross breed. So there are many unknowns.
When they reach that sustainable density the stream will be open again to fishing. I hope God lets me live and be there on that great day. It will be here before we know it I hope.