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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

TU team keeps finding wild trout in Pennsylvania

Trout Unlimited science staff member Shawn Rummel uses electrofishing gear to search for trout in a small Pennsylvania creek. TU is among the groups assisting with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission's Unassessed Waters Initiative. (Trout Unlimited photos.)
By Mark Taylor
A TU team has been busy once again in the wilds of Pennsylvania, using electroshocking gear to search for wild trout in waters where the presence of trout hasn’t been formally documented.
As the crew works, their previous efforts continue to pay off.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission recently voted to add 99 streams to its formal Wild Trout Waters list as a result of the agency's ongoing Unassessed Waters Initiative.
Many of these streams were identified as holding wild trout by TU’s field crew, headed by Kathleen Lavelle, field coordinator for TU’s Pennsylvania Coldwater Habitat Restoration Initiative based in Lock Haven, Pa.
Since 2011, TU specially trained field crews have sampled roughly 600 streams. In most years, approximately 40 percent of streams have held wild trout, with a predominance of brook trout (below).
TU and other field teams, such as crews from universities, pass the information along to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, which then considers the streams for formal listing.
While the listing of a stream section as a wild trout water does not determine how the water is managed, the biological designation is among the factors that the commission relies on for management decisions. Often times, listed wild trout streams and their adjacent wetlands will be afforded special protection by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
Some streams are identified as Class A Wild Trout Streams, a designation for the best of the best. Those streams, which must meet strict biomass and trout population criteria, usually are specially managed.
“With rare exceptions, the Commission manages these stream sections solely for the perpetuation of the wild trout fishery, with no stocking,” according to the Commission.
This summer, Lavelle and her crew have been concentrating efforts on streams in the headwaters of the West Branch Susquehanna River watershed, as well is in the Delaware River watershed. The team has been finding trout in many of the sampled waters.
Not long after the field work ends, the Fish and Boat Commission at a meeting in late September will vote on another block of proposed additions to the Wild Trout Stream listing.
Another 99 streams will be voted on for inclusion on the Wild Trout Streams list, with four streams to be considered for Class A designation.