While 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.