ADK Brook Trout Past and Present - Part 2

Continued from prior post : ADK Brook Trout Past and Present - Part 1

There are quite a few issues that have affected the Brook trout in Adirondack State Park and I cannot tackle them all but I will cover the issues that have come up the most in my research.
Brooktrout Lake - Once acidified now showing drastic improvement

Of all the concerns expressed to me me through my interviews and research the biggest monster in the closet definitely manifests itself as the acid rain problem the ADK was so famous for. A great deal of lakes containing Heritage strain brook trout were lost to to acidification and its believed that entire strains were lost without anybody knowing it. When you hear the term "heritage strain" it refers to a strain of fish whose lineage can be traced untainted as far back as records go, these are true native fish.

When a body of water undergoes acidification which mainly comes in the form of precipitation or acid rain, the PH level of that water is lowered. Many have interpreted this as the cause of fatality in trout populations but based on an interview I did with biologist Rich Preall, he discounts this. His counter is as follows. Brook trout have been living in water with low PH levels since the beginning of time, they thrived in the many beaver ponds of the ADK which have very low PH levels. The problem is not with the PH itself but with what the acidification causes.

Due to the modernization of our economy and the industrialization of our country a great deal of contaminants is dispersed into the atmosphere, at one point this was not regulated at all. With that, when there is precipitation that said rain dumps huge amounts of contaminants into the soil. With low PH levels those contaminants are easily distributed through the water column and this event has been known to destroy fish populations. One of the main culprits if I remember correctly is Aluminium which can disperse throughout the water and coat the gills of young fish, thus suffocating them. Whether this is the case or not, one thing we know is that with the Clean Air Act Amendments in 1970, the acid rain problem has become greatly reduced and many bodies of water have been able to be recovered.
Loggers in the Adirondacks

Another great problem reared itself with the colonization of the Adirondacks. Loggers eventually made their way to the area and with them they brought everyone else. Huge parcels of land were cleared, Native fauna devastated and a great deal of habitat lost. I don't need to go into detail about that.

With the loggers came the hunters. Keeping in mind that beaver ponds are a huge part of Brook Trout  habitat, imagine what the decimation of the beaver population had on the fish population. Beavers were nearly wiped out by hunters and trappers due to their high fur prices but with the downfall of the fur trade the beavers are back and they are creating plenty of Brook trout habitat.

Considered as one of the success stories of the Brook Trout program in New York, I consider the hybridization of multiple strains to be one of the state's biggest follies on an otherwise excellent restoration program. Having realized the need to supplement the lowered stocks of Brook trout in the park, a stocking program and subsequent study was initiated. The study found that wild strain Brook Trout fared much better in lakes where angler surveys were conducted by tallying the wild and domestic Brook Trout take. They also discovered the wild strain was faring much better in less than ideal water conditions. And here is where they went wrong.

Its unclear in the document I was provided entitled "Management of Wild & Hybrid Trout in NY" why this happened but it did. It appears angler considerations for  fish size was taken into account and based on a study conducted by Dwight Webster and William Flick in 1971, hybrid fish produced by Cornell university were introduced into the stocking program. These fish were are cross between wild caught Canadian Brook Trout obtained by Cornell and wild caught heritage strain fish from the ADK. Its unknown the impact these fish have had but I'm certain these hybrids have crossed with wild fish in places where they should not be able to, and thus watered down the bloodlines of these storied fish. I understand the idea, the domestic strain they were stocking was insufficient and they realized the importance of wild fish, so they brought in wild fish from another location and began a stocking program which thus produced a domesticated strain.

I'll take pause again now that we have covered how they got here, and spoke on their decline. 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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