Monday, May 15, 2017

Brown Trout Found In Heritage Brook Trout Pond

troutWhile fishing in Black Pond on a rainy mid-April day, Jake Kuryla caught a 13-inch brown trout. The fish surprised the Paul Smith’s College fisheries major because Black Pond is a specially designated brook trout water.

Located on Paul Smith’s College property in Paul Smiths, Black Pond is used to raise Windfall strain brook trout for stocking purposes.  Every fall, DEC live trap brook trout in the pond to get eggs from the females and milt (semen) from the males. The DEC then uses the fertilized eggs to raise young trout that are stocked in other ponds.

The Windfall strain is one of several heritage strains of brook trout recognized by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Studies have shown that brown trout can have a negative impact on brook trout because they have been known to outcompete native brook trout for food and territory.

Kuryla said he was initially reluctant to tell people that he caught a brown trout in the pond because he feared the DEC would reclaim the pond, killing off the large brook trout that are now living in the waters. The reclaiming process is done by applying Rotenone, a natural occurring pesticide that has been used on the pond in the past, most recently in the late 1990s.

“I don’t want to see the brookies killed for one mistake,” said Kuryla, referring to the stocking.

However, DEC spokesman Dave Winchell said the department has no plans to reclaim the pond or take any other actions. He said DEC is unaware of how the brown trout got into the pond.

According to Winchell, DEC first noticed the brown trout last fall after catching one in a net. This spring, the department has received several more reports from anglers who have caught brown trout. In addition, Paul Smith’s College professor Curt Stager told DEC several of his students, including Kuryla, had caught browns.

Stager said he’s talked with DEC Fisheries Manager Lance Durfey about the brown trout, and Durfey has been helpful trying to look into the problem. However, Stager is concerned that the brown trout may have accidentally been stocked by DEC. The department stocks many ponds in that region through aerial drops from a state helicopter.

“It’s pretty clear a number of same size age fish were put, so it’s not just a sneaky individual dropping one or two in there,” Stager said. “It had to be DEC, but they’re trying to find out how it happened.”

Stager is concerned that if the DEC mistakenly stocked this pond with brown trout, it could be a mistake that’s repeated.

It’s not a given that brown trout will have a negative long-term impact on the brook trout because they may not be able to breed and start a population. That’s because brown trout prefer to breed in rivers and streams.

“There’s a possibility they won’t breed,” Stager said. “They’ll just have a nice life, eat well, and not be able to outcompete.”

But Stager does hope brown trout get fished out of the pond, and there are signs at the pond asking anglers to remove browns they catch there.

“So if people are encouraged to eat them rather than the brook trout, there’s a natural control of the browns,” Stager said. “So that’s the desire.”

That’s opposite of the brook trout strategy for the pond. Regular state regulations apply to it, allowing anglers to keep five brook trout. However, a sign from VIC Staff, Paul Smith’s College, and DEC asks anglers to voluntarily reduce their catch to two or three fish, preferably less than 12 inches. “Please help us save this quality fishery and native strain of brook trout,” the sign says.

Stager also expressed concern that golden shiners, a non-native, are in the pond. However, Winchell said they have been in Black Pond for approximately a decade. “The presence of golden shiner in brook trout water often times is detrimental to the brook trout population, however, we have not observed a significant impact at this time,” he said in a written statement.

Durfey told Adirondack Explorer previously that golden shiners and bullhead, another invasive, were responsible for a dwindling brook trout population in Whey Pond in the Saranac Lake Wild Forest. Whey Pond had also previously been a broodstock pond for the Windfall strain of brook trout.

Top photo, Jake Kuryla holds a brown trout he caught in Black Pond. Top photo by Mike Lynch of sign at Black Pond in Paul Smiths.


Mike Lynch

Mike Lynch is a staff writer and photographer for the nonprofit Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly news magazine with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues.

Mike’s favorite outdoor activities include paddling, hiking, fishing and backcountry skiing. In 2011, he paddled the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail from Old Forge to Fort Kent, Maine.

From 2007 until 2014, Mike worked as an outdoors writer and photographer for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise in Saranac Lake.

Mike welcomes story ideas and can be reached at mike@adirondackexplorer.org.




33 Responses

  1. Charles champagne says:

    So is it ok to keep as many browns as you catch with no limit out of this pond?

    • Boreas says:

      I would think so, but the sign says “Please consider removing”. ??? Does that mean if you catch 20 you can just throw them up on shore? If you try to walk out with them, I would assume you would be subject to DEC catch regulations. I would think the sign should read “Any brown trout caught in these waters MUST NOT be returned to the pond.” Again, DEC seems to be pretty wishy-washy on what they are doing to remediate the problem.

    • M.P. Heller says:

      Definitely not. The daily limit is still 5.

  2. Wren Hawk says:

    So why aren’t brown trout considered invasive species? They are non-native and compete with brook trout, that are our native trout species. Why stock brown trout and rainbows?

    • Boreas says:

      I agree. I have railed against the DEC stocking of brown and rainbow trout for decades. It’s all about the DEC perception that these species attract more anglers. More anglers = more $$. I don’t mind the stocking of browns & rainbows in warmer waters that won’t hold Brook Trout, but I don’t agree with it in Brook Trout waters – especially within the Park.

      • Jesse B says:

        This is not just a NYS DEC problem. I was out in central Utah and a number of streams were actively being “reclaimed” of non-native brown trout. Except those non-native strains were there following years of state stocking.

        Considering the streams are sometimes tens of miles apart and the only drinking water out there, I wasn’t terribly pleased to see this ongoing.

        • Boreas says:

          Jesse,

          I am not as familiar with Utah’s situation. Were they legally stocked by the state or did they show up as invasives? I believe Utah used to have a stocking program for browns and rainbows, but I could be mistaken.

          I don’t know if it is still current policy, but Montana historically relied on natural breeding and did not stock streams. If populations were declining, they would rely on catch & release instead of stocking. And YNP has never routinely stocked that I am aware of.

          • Paul says:

            “And YNP has never routinely stocked that I am aware of.”

            I don;t think that is accurate. Apparently, Yellowstone has for many years stocked the parks waters with fish.

            https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/nature/fishaquaticspecies.htm

            At least according to the park service.

            • Boreas says:

              “I don;t think that is accurate.”

              Glad you are fact-checking everything I post for accuracy Paul. “Routinely stocked” is the key phrase here. They take significant measures to remove non-natives, and may need to reclaim and re-stock waters, but it isn’t a put & take stocking system like we have in NYS. That is what I consider “routine”. That was my meaning.

              • Paul says:

                No problem on the fact checking, my pleasure.

                According to the NPS Yellowstone has for many years had a “put and take” (as you call it) for cutthroats. Sounds pretty routine to me. I didn’t know that until I saw your comment and went to check it out.

                • Boreas says:

                  Well, I am confused. The current regulations state that all native species need to be released During the 90’s and early part of the 2000s, I fished out there most every summer and native species always had to be released. That isn’t what I would call put and take. I call put and take stocking and then allowing people to take fish home. But in NYS they stock both native and non-native fish routinely.

                  I fished primarily the Lamar and Gibbon, and occasionally the Firehole drainages, and at least back then those drainages were not stocked routinely that I am aware of and relied on natural reproduction for the cutts. Perhaps other drainages like the Madison and Yellowstone are routinely stocked, but I do not know which ones.

                  With the decimated cutt population out there now, it is likely some stocking of cutts is taking place, but I do not know where they would get the Yellowstone strain from other than the Park itself. Perhaps they are using other ponds that have not been affected by lake trout for the hatcheries.

                  https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/fishing.htm#fish_regs

          • Jesse B says:

            I believe you’re correct that Utah historically stocked brown trout. As for these particular streams, the locals said they were stocked by the state years ago, and I can verify that they were being reclaimed by the state (to be replaced with native cutthroats).

            Honestly, I have no idea why Utah would have stocked these streams with brown trout in the first place. You’re talking small bodies of water (6-7 feet across) with most fish about 5-6 inches. While the locations were beautiful, it’s not exactly an anglers hot spot. I supposed this area is as good as any for reclamation, since better fishing opportunities exist elsewhere and introduced cutthroats wouldn’t face much fishing pressure.

            • Boreas says:

              They likely did it for the same reason NYS still does it. Anglers = $$. Browns and rainbows often get much bigger than brookies and cutts, so therefore should be more attractive to anglers. They were also typically considered more of a challenge to catch, and rainbows tend to jump a lot and are exciting to catch. I believe Utah was always fond of rainbows. “Conservation” in game and fisheries has often not been the been the friend to native species.

  3. Boreas says:

    DEC seems to be downplaying this. Read up on what the illegal introduction of lake trout to Yellowstone Lake have done to the ecology of the area Park. The non-native LT have not only devastated the Yellowstone Cutthroat population and the entire fishery, but has even affected the elk herd because the grizzly population no longer have the abundance of cutts in the tributaries to depend on for a spring protein source.

    The Yellowstone introduction is believed to be the introduction of a few breeders into the lake by guides. But if the ADK introduction by the DEC was a dumping of a helicopter-load of fish, it is a pretty-big screw-up. Frankly, I don’t know how it could happen. One would think the hatcheries would know what they are putting into the helicopters. I wouldn’t think there would be any program of stocking browns into any remote lakes, so I don’t see it as a mistaken drop. It really doesn’t make any sense to me. The only scenario that makes much sense to me is that somehow the fish were mixed in with brookies at the hatchery. But I was always under the impression the species were well isolated.

    They should be easier to remove than the Yellowstone lakers – but only if it is done immediately before they begin to spawn.

    • Paul says:

      ” I wouldn’t think there would be any program of stocking browns into any remote lakes, so I don’t see it as a mistaken drop.”

      Well you would be thinking wrong. There are many brown trout stocked into many remote ponds. At least if you consider a pond like this “remote”.

      Here is an example of Franklin county alone this spring:

      http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/23323.html

      • Boreas says:

        I guess my point was I wouldn’t think it would be a mistaken drop into the wrong pond. But if all of these fish are the same age, it would likely indicate it was a stocking of some sort and not the occasional wanderer or illegal introduction. Perhaps a pair could have found their way in and bred, but it seems unlikely. Another whodunnit.

        • Paul says:

          Why would you think it is unlikely? How is Black Pond isolated from Lower St. Regis lake? Is there some kind of barrier on the culverts under the Keeses Mill Road? It is also connected by a stream to Long Pond. This isn’t a great pond for brood stock. I wouldn’t jump to any DEC conspiracy theories too quickly.

          • Boreas says:

            Paul,
            I would say it is unlikely simply because we are having this discussion. If there were easy access between the water bodies, finding brown trout in Black Pond wouldn’t be news, but longstanding. I am under the impression this is something new. But I am not a NYS fisheries biologist so I really do not know if this is something new or not. I was assuming it was. Have they historically been found there? I don’t know.

            • Paul says:

              Just look at the map, there is easy access. Black is connected by water to Long Pond and St. Regis lake. The St. Regis river (the source for the lake) is stocked with brown trout every year. My guess is this is why the DEC is not that surprised.

          • There is a fish barrier between Lower St. Regis and Black Pond. Black Pond was reclaimed several times and the barrier was installed to prevent the reintroduction of Yellow Perch.

            • Paul says:

              Must be a pretty fine mesh barrier. Funny how they would use a pond like that one for brood stock (or whatever you call it). Why not a well isolated pond that isn’t so public? Could there have been any browns in the long pond that is connected at the other end of black?

              • Paul says:

                Also they should not let people fish in a pond they are raising fish for stocking. That is another source of potential contamination. There are lots of other ponds to fish in.

                • Scott says:

                  They only collect eggs from these ponds, not fish. I believe they make efforts to release the fish after collection. The biggest source of fish disease is fish hatcheries. Fishermen tend to not carry around fish diseases.

                  • Paul says:

                    But some do carry around things like shiners. That is how many ponds have been ruined and had to be reclaimed. Most are good but some are not.

                    • Scott says:

                      I am well aware of the threat of shiners from bait pails. In a perfect world, shutting this place down would be the best scenario. DEC has a choice based on risk management. Close it down and risk that it will be poached anyway (a frequent occurrence according to conversations I had in the past with Rich Preall) and/or the little tupper scenario plays out and bass get put in there by some disgruntled malcontent. As I stated elsewhere, DEC has redundancy for each strain (Windfall, L.Tupper, Horn) so why risk a total loss?

  4. Paul says:

    The problem here is that for these brood stock the ponds really should be remote. This one has an outlet right next to the road. You can almost throw a stone from the campus into it. You don’t need a helicopter to stock this pond. Isn’t it connected by water to Lower St. Regis Lake? Or is this another Black Pond near Paul Smiths?

    You have the same problem with the Landlocked Salmon brood stock in Little Clear. You can actually paddle across that pond to get into the St. Regis Chain.

    • Boreas says:

      My understanding was that they were spread out into remote, isolated ponds as well. But again, I am probably wrong. Probably just the DEC line I am remembering.

      • Scott says:

        There are several brood stock ponds, some remote some not. I’m not going to list them but if you look around the DEC website you can find them. Some are also on private land. I don’t know why they would need to be remote. The only criteria would be genetic purity and enough fish that reach maturity to harvest eggs/milt. If you can find the info on the process, they really don’t need that many fish to serve their stocking requirements at least not as many as I thought. Ease of access is also a tremendous cost savings, those helicopter trips can’t be cheap.

  5. Scott says:

    This is probably much ado about nothing. Brown trout in general don’t do well in ADK ponds. I can only think of a few places they survive and grow to decent sizes and probably none of them come from natural reproduction. DEC also intentionally stocks browns in some brook trout ponds with high populations of invasives like shiners to help tamp them down. I have no idea about the effectiveness of this technique. I fish one of these ponds frequently and have never caught a brown in a decade of fishing it, only brook trout even though they are stocked at nearly equivalent quantities. There have been several stocking errors over the years that have put browns into other brook trout ponds I fish and typically within a couple years the browns are gone. So this Black pond thing is something to keep an eye on but low probability to harm the brook trout.

    • Boreas says:

      Scott,

      Well that makes me feel a lot better. What strains does DEC use for stocking streams vs. stocking ponds? Do they all survive equally well?

      • Paul says:

        Here you can find all the data for the current stocking program. Species, size, numbers, water body, etc. You will probably have to dig a bit deeper for information on particular strains.

        https://data.ny.gov/Recreation/Current-Season-Spring-Trout-Stocking/d9y2-n436/data

      • Scott says:

        Boreas,
        My understanding, maybe someone from DEC can correct me if I’m wrong, is that the streams get ‘domestic’ strain brook trout. These would be generic hatchery trout that have been bred for generations for put and take type fisheries. These fish tend to grow well and have disease resistance in a hatchery setting but they only live maybe 3-4 years if they are lucky.

        Ponds get a variety of strains based on a number of factors including pH, competition, pond type (seepage vs drainage), etc. I believe the main brook trout used for pond stocking is the Temiscamie x Domestic hybrid as they have found this fish to have relatively long life and good pH tolerance. Temiscamie is a wild Canadian strain that can live up to 8-10 years in the wild. They also stock pure Adirondack strains such as Windfall, Little Tupper, and Horn Lake in various ponds. These typically live 4-6 years and are suited for certain ponds but I think are more tricky to raise in hatcheries. I believe there are Domestic crosses with some of the Adirondack Strains as well but those might be new.

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