No fish tells the story of the Adirondacks like brook trout. This native fish is a prime indicator of water quality and have suffered from habitat, degradation, overfishing and acid rain.
Despite their declines, there is little that’s more Adirondack than wading into a stream flanked by towering spruce and pine trees, casting a fly rod in the area of downed logs. It takes a quick response to hook a brookie as it stabs at a fly on the surface of the water.
The Adirondack brook trout story often recounts how a dozen or so heritage strains have persisted in isolated stretches of the park since the days after glaciers receded from the region. A handful of those strains have survived all that has come since. But that story is incomplete, and some researchers and science-minded anglers are hoping to expand our understanding of the park’s brook trout by analyzing fish genetics. And they think they have found more genetically-unique trout strains than the state has officially recognized.
Earlier this month I joined a team of volunteer anglers on a mission to collect trout DNA samples from the streams surrounding Sagamore Lake. We hiked and bushwhacked along a winding stream corridor; as they waded the shallow waters, I jotted notes and snapped pictures from the stream banks.
Trout Power, a nonprofit dedicated to studying native brook trout strains and connecting anglers to science, hosted a weekend of fishing Sagamore Lake and the streams that feed and drain it. The organization is confident it has identified a native brook trout strain in the area, calling it the Sagamore strain. Their research is focused on identifying the strain’s range and genetic influences.
I’m working on a deeper story on brook trout and the emerging genetics that suggest there may be more strains than previously known. Let me know if you have any insight to share on the subject.
Editor’s note: This first appeared in Zach’s weekly “Water Line” newsletter. Click here to sign up.