This is one of the driest summers I can remember, and I’ve heard numerous folks older and wiser than me say the same. There’s no two ways about it, we’ve lost a lot of brook trout this year. I’ve seen photos on social media of Class A brook trout streams that are 100% dry. In some of these places I’m sure some individuals made their way into refuge to ride out the drought, but in some places, I think they simply perished or became an easy meal for a predator.
The photo above is a small rock dam I breached on a small brook trout stream that is nearly dry. Tear down those rock dams and don’t build them. If you’re unaware, Native Fish Coalition has a dam busting initiative here.
The photo above is a trout stream. Well, it is when there’s water in it. It’s that dry.
30 minutes north of that dry streambed there is a stream that runs full of water all year long, maintains consistent 50-60 degree water, has incredible insect life, supports natural reproduction, and maintains good flows even in drought. It even supports brook trout year-round!
In contrast to the dry streambed, the photo above was taken around the same time, and again, it’s 30 minutes north, so the drought is the same there as it is where the dry stream is. This stream is fed from deep within the earth though. So it’s water is cold, it has a high pH, and again, it’s less impacted from drought. Streams like this are going to play an important role if droughts like 2020 continue.
One of the arguments I hear all the time in PA in defense of stocking is; “they only stock trout where wild trout aren’t in abundance.” OR “that stream gets too warm to support brook trout”. Well, here is a stream that clearly supports brook trout year round. That stocked brook trout survived one of the worst droughts in history, and in relative comfort.
This stream is not unlike many other limestone streams in PA. It’s infested (I chose that word wisely) with wild brown trout AND it’s stocked! It does matter. Stocked trout are not equal to wild trout, and native trout are not equal to wild trout. Wild native trout are worth more. Period. Full stop.
We have plenty of water in central PA, even during a severe drought. The streams are just horribly mismanaged. These limestone streams should be wild native brook trout refuges. They’re not.