Wildwood Outfitters Blog and Fishing Report
Our conservation corner blogs have taken us from the Everglades to Alaska and a few places in between. With this installment we are staying close to home, highlighting efforts to preserve wild trout in the Appalachian Mountains of Pennsylvania.
Conservation efforts for brook trout in the Keystone State have come slow, almost at a glacial pace. In 1924 the "grand" conservation effort was lowering the limit of trout to 25. It wouldn't be until the middle of the Cold War that that number would decrease below double digits. The balance between "sustainable harvest" and protection of natural resources was difficult to navigate for the powers-that-be in Pennsylvania.
Now, years later, the specific programs for wild/native trout are geared towards the protection and continuation of trout. The PA Fish & Boat Commission, in conjunction with Trout Unlimited, has recently begun a new campaign to find and classify wild trout waters in the commonwealth. Through extensive electro-shocking surveys, trout biomass can be determined and thus a customized plan can be made. Sometimes that means habitat enhancement, while other times the correct course of action might be special regulations limiting harvest and fishing methods to ensure trout population health.
Identifying those streams that might hold strong wild trout populations is only step one for the coalition to protect these fish. Once it is determined that wild trout are present, each stream can be evaluated for individual need. That can mean stream bank improvement through tree planting or rock fields, or limestone deposits if acid mine runoff is an issue. All of the barriers to strong fish numbers can be addressed once biologists know what is currently in the stream.
In 2017, Pennsylvania held the first ever Wild Trout Summit to discuss scientific findings and future plans with the general public. You might remember this as the topic of our article in The Drake last summer. One of the more interesting findings of this gathering was the impact of climate change on brook trout. Some of the smartest folks in the scientific community concluded that climate change threatens to magnify the stress on wild trout. Whether that be spring floods or summer heat, wild trout are particularly susceptible to the changing world around them. Knowing this threat ahead of time is an important step to staving off species collapse.
Wild trout conservation, in this century, is a complicated equation. Climate change, habitat loss, oil and gas development, and urban encroachment are all risks that threaten to wound trout populations. The state being proactive in recognizing, and trying to combat, these issues shows a commitment to preserving some of the best trout fishing in the country.
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