ADK Brook Trout Past and Present - Part 1

Mammoth Brookies swimming happily in an Adirondack spring hole
If there is one fish with a true place in my heart it is by far the Adirondack Brook Trout. In many ways this fish is one of the very few fish left standing through the years. There are places deep within the blue line where you can still find fish, isolated, cut off, and completely wild. These are fish that according to record have not been tainted by stocking or hybridization with other strains of stocked fish. Many factors need to come into play for this. Most Brook Trout waters are tributaries so there needs to be an impassable barrier to deny the upstream movement of other fishes, or it needs to be a pond not affected by the troubles of the past which we will cover, and not be tainted by the "bucket biologists" or people that have introduced non-native or species foreign to that specific body of water. This topic will have to span several posts but it will help you understand the horrible things these fish have endured and how strong they are to still remain. A fish like this has to captivate you at least on some level.

I learned all of this information through a great deal of research. I conducted interviews, and poured through mountains of documents to compile this for a book I was writing and have since put on the back shelf, so please give credit where it is due. Keep in mind many of this was explained in vivid scientific detail so for the purposes of yours and mine own understanding I have simplified the explanations as much as possible. This may cause confusion if there are any historians, biologists, or geologists amongst you.

Its unclear how long the Brook Trout has been in the waters of the Adirondack's or the northeast for that matter but scientists to seem to agree that they have been here since the retreat of the "Last Glacial Maximum" or LGM. Many speculate that they may have been there before the LGM as well but that is unclear. The LGM refers to a time during what is known as the Wisconsin glaciation when the glacial and ice formations were at their peak 11-15,000 years ago depending on who you talk to.
At the end of the Wisconsin glaciation 11-15,000 years ago a warming trend had developed that induced the retreat of the glaciers and produced meltwater that formed Lake Albany which in itself was believed to sit on top of existing glaciers. Lake Albany covered an area of approximately 160 miles from where Newburgh now sits all the way to Glens Falls.
Cascade Lake - A great example of an Adirondack glacial water body
The basic idea is, that as the glaciers melted or retreated they carved out what is currently many rivers and especially lakes and kettle ponds leaving water behind to fill them. As this was happening Lake Albany and nearby Lake Vermont which was a similar glacial lake was being drained and leaving behind its treasure of what we know as natives fishes smattered across the area. This includes the Brook Trout along with other now endangered or extinct fishes such as the Atlantic Salmon that once occupied Lake Champlain, the Round Whitefish, and the Lake Surgeon to name a few that are now at great risk in the region.

I'll take pause here now that we have covered how they got here, in the next post I will discuss what led to their decline in the park. Most of which applies elsewhere. In my last post I will discuss what the state has done, and tell a little more about the few strains of truly wild Brookies remaining in the park.

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