Social Media

Love it or hate it, social media has become an essential part of educating constituents, reaching customers, and growing a brand. According to a recent report by Smart Insights, over 5.04 billion people worldwide use social media, citing data from Datareportal. This translates to 62.3% of the global population being active on social media platforms.

Pennsylvania lacks data on the presence of brook trout and changes in species composition (percentage of brook trout to brown trout etc.). From the 2020-2024 trout management plan under Issue 1: “The PFBC has not assessed all of the 62,725 streams within the Commonwealth and approximately 51,800 streams have not been sampled. Approximately 35,000 of the unassessed streams are greater than or equal to 0.5 stream-miles in length and more likely to support wild trout than streams of smaller length. As a result, the total number of streams that support wild trout populations in Pennsylvania is unknown which leads to inadequate protection of the unassessed streams.” and under Issue 10: “Between 2020 and 2024, the PFBC will assess the density and occurrence of wild Brook Trout and Brown Trout between historic and contemporary surveys to determine if changes have occurred in the distribution and ratios of these species. Results of this project will inform management actions and may identify issues such as impacts of increasing water temperature, habitat degradation, among others, along with areas of greater wild Brook Trout resiliency.

Conversely, in Maryland, the state conducted a statewide survey from 2014-2018 to try to understand the status and trends of brook trout (read the report here). Most notably from the survey, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources found, “Brook trout were present
in 317 of 440 historically occupied catchments, which indicates a 27.0 percent loss statewide.
” The report further breaks down the losses by region, but all regions experienced losses in brook trout presence, varying from 49.3% losses in the central region to 14.9% in Allegheny and Garrett counties.

Based on the studies conducted between 2014 and 2018, Maryland enacted more restrictive angling regulations for brook trout in 2020. You can read about the statewide angling regulations for brook trout HERE. The regulations split the state in half and make brook trout catch & release in all water east of i81, and in all stocked waters west of i81. Of note in the document, Maryland DNR noted, “Brook trout are listed in Maryland’s State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN).” and, “Maryland is a signatory partner of the Chesapeake Bay Agreement. The Agreement includes the Brook Trout Outcome, which calls for an eight percent increase in occupied habitat by 2025.

One of the most striking comments made in the Maryland document is the paragraph below:

Catch-and-release regulations for brook trout were implemented in the upper Savage River
in Garrett County in 2007. An anticipated benefit from the regulation was to protect the largest fish (most fecund, best spawning success) during low flow and poor reproduction years to sustain brook trout in subsequent years when conditions are better. Annual brook trout population monitoring has indicated that the upper Savage River supports a stable population even with the normal environmentally driven annual fluctuations. Furthermore, compared to pooled sites open to harvest by anglers (2 fish per day, no closed season) from around the state, the upper Savage River has maintained statistically significant greater brook trout densities for each year of monitoring following the regulation change.

Large Brook Trout
Maryland Wild Native Brook Trout

It’s worth pointing out that brook trout are also listed as a species of greatest conservation need in Pennsylvania’s Wildlife Action Plan (found HERE). On page 991 of PA’s Wildlife Action Plan (Apendix 1.4 “Fishes” page 157), brook trout are listed as “Very high concern” in the Northeast Region of the state. Numerous environmental impacts are listed as threats to native brook trout in Pennsylvania, but on the last page, the impact of invasive trout is listed.

In the case of invasive brown trout, according to a report published on the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture website, Pennsylvania has not conducted any non-native/invasive fish removals to date. You can download the Excel spreadsheet here: https://easternbrooktrout.org/science-data/ebtjv-assessment-data/eastern-brook-trout-restoration-summary-table/view. The survey indicates that PA has only attempted two reintroduction projects to date, and only one was successful. Interestingly, the successful reintroduction was in the Big Spring, and there is no information about the source stock of the fish used for that project. Again, in neither case were nonnative fish removed prior to reintroducing brook trout.

While PA is lacking data on the status of brook trout, TU/EBTJV did publish data in 2006 that, ” Brook trout have vanished from 34% of historical brook trout subwatersheds. A significant portion of the state (17%) lacks any data on the presence of brook trout.” and also, “Today, 1% of the state’s historical subwatersheds remain intact, while 9% are reduced.” It’s likely that the brook trout populations in Pennsylvania have faired about as well as they have in Maryland. Some regions likely saw less decline, while others saw significant declines.

Even without solid data on presence or loss, it’s a safe bet to say that we’ve lost a lot of brook trout habitat in Pennsylvania. There are numerous reasons for this. Land Use, High Water Temperatures, Sedimentation, and Urbanization are the typically cited environmental impacts. Along with those impacts are nonnative trout, specifically brown trout. In fact, the EBTJV/TU report cited above ranks the impacts as follows, with Brown Trout listed specifically at #3:

Our government agencies have a unique opportunity to promote services and educate constituents on a range of issues, from environmental conservation to taxes. In Pennsylvania, the PA Fish & Boat Commission has over 124,000 followers on Facebook, 23.8K followers on Instagram, and 13.5K followers on X (Twitter). The agency uses social media to promote angling opportunities and the sale of fishing licenses on its social media pages.

As illustrated above, there is plenty to talk about when it comes to brook trout in Pennsylvania. They’re the state fish and the only native stream-dwelling salmonid in the state. Lake trout are also native to Pennsylvania. Mentioning that brook trout is the state fish or one of only two native “trout” (they’re char) in the state, would be great, but educating the public about the threats and status of brook trout would be even better.

Unfortunately, the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission has an abysmal record when it comes to promoting or educating constituents about brook trout in Pennsylvania. PFBC posts the same messages and photos across all social media platforms, so I’m only going to cover Facebook posts here. I looked back over the past two years to see how many times the agency posted a photo of a brook trout. The agency posted a grand total of four brook trout photos during that two year period and none of the accompanying text posted with the photos had anything to do with brook trout.

Starting with the oldest post first, here is a wild brook trout posted in November of 2022 for Thanksgiving. Note that in this screenshot of posts during that same time there are two brown trout and two rainbow trout posted. The brook trout is in the upper left corner of the screenshot.

Here’s the accompanying text that was posted with the brook trout photo.

As you can see, nothing in this post has anything to do with brook trout. At least not specifically. The only thing that could possibly apply is the “supporting wild trout fisheries,” but “wild trout” does not mean “brook trout.”

Here’s the next array of photos posted by the agency. The lone wild brook trout is right in the center. Again, it’s surrounded by photos of nonnative trout. There are 8 nonnative trout posted during this same timeframe. This brook trout photo was posted 4 month after the last one and again, there were dozens of nonnative trout highlighted/featured during that same period.

Here’s the text that accompanied the brook trout photo in the above screenshot. Again, this has absolutely nothing to do with brook trout. Here they appear to be using the image simply to entice anglers to join a “how to fish” program.

The next time the agency would post a brook trout is in June of 2023. Three months later. Again, the brook trout photo is buried among photos of nonnative trout.

This time the messaging with the brook trout photo is that buying voluntary permits helps a number of programs. One of those is wild trout habitat. Again, no mention of brook trout.

This brings us to the last time the agency posted a photo of a brook trout. It was in January of 2023. A full year and 3 months since the last time they posted a photo of brook trout. This one is lost in an ocean of posts about stocking, hatcheries, nonnative trout and ice fishing posts.

As you may have guessed by now, the brook trout photo post mentioned nothing about brook trout. The text accompanying the photo was announcing that the commission approved 16 new wild trout Class A streams for listing. This is something that happens every quarter. It’s a good thing, but it isn’t about brook trout. There were a few brook trout streams in this group of additions, but again, the post says nothing about brook trout.

That’s it. Two full years worth of posts and they posted the above four photos of brook trout. At no point during that time period did they mention brook trout other than to lump them in with stocking announcements as a species being stocked.

Pretty sad for our state fish. Given all the research and attention brook trout receive across their native range, you’d think PFBC could spend the time to write a single post in two years explaining how the fish is doing. They could tell people that the populations are declining, or improving, or stable. Except they don’t know the answer to that question. They admitted they don’t know the answer to that question in the trout management plan. They don’t know the answer because they’ve never surveyed the streams to find out.

I have a suspicion that the agency just “thinks” everything is fine. We’ve got a lot of brook trout streams in PA, so what’s the big deal? Well, if Maryland has witnessed an overall 27% decline since 1987, then I think it’s fair to assume that at least the lower half of PA has seen the same. A researcher who published a paper based on brook trout and brown trout occupancy in north western PA noted that the mixed populations they studied a decade ago are now completely overrun with brown trout. They’re no longer mixed.

A stream near me which I’ve mentioned numerous times is officially listed as a mixed population brook & brown trout class A. In order to qualify as a “mixed class A” brown trout must make up less than 75% of the biomass. I would bet cold hard cash if that stream was surveyed today it would not qualify as “mixed.” It is 100% brown trout. Well, there is no possible way brown trout don’t exceed 75% of the biomass anyway.

PFBC has a responsibility to educate the public about the fisheries they’re charged with managing. In a paper published around 2005 (the author didn’t date it) the agency stated a goal was to write more educational material on brook trout. It never happened. I don’t know what the disconnect is. I’m not sure who’s in charge of what gets posted to PFBC social media, but they’re doing a terrible job.

Categories Musings

Leave a Reply

search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close