Brook Trout

Maryland DNR Statement on Brook Trout

 

Brook trout are Maryland’s only native freshwater trout species and have been a popular recreational angling resource since European colonization of North America.

 

 

Brook trout require relatively pristine conditions for survival and typically cannot survivewhen water temperatures exceed 680F. Anthropogenic alterations to Maryland’senvironment over the last several centuries including clear cutting of forests, establishing large agricultural areas, and urbanization have resulted in the extirpation of brook trout from 62% of their historic habitat in Maryland. Of the remaining 151 streams where brook trout p0pulations are found, over half are in westernmost Garrett County, the least developed area of Maryland. The vast majority (82%) of the remaining populations are classified as “greatly reduced”, meaning that within the subwatersheds where they occur they occupy only 1% to 10% of the area that was historically inhabited. A major difficulty in managing the brook trout resource is that only 11% of all brook trout streams and stream miles are fully within state lands, the vast majority of habitat is on private land and a mix of private/public lands.

 

 

 Of the more immediate threats to brook trout populations in Maryland, urbanization is the most serious. In watersheds where human land use exceeds 18% brook trout populations cannot survive. If impervious surface area is greater than 0.5% in a watershed brook trout will typically be extirpated. There are also long-term threats to brook trout populations such as global warming. Current predictions indicate that warming water temperatures over the next 100 years could eliminate brook trout populations statewide except for western Maryland (Garrett County) by approximately 2100.

 

 

 The Maryland DNR has listed brook trout as a “Species of Greatest Need of Conservation” in its federally mandated Wildlife Diversity Conservation Plan. Concern for the status of the brook trout resource prompted the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MD DNR) Inland Fisheries Management Division, which is responsible formanagement of statewide freshwater sport fish species, to develop a brook trout Fisheries Management Plan (FMP). Partners in this effort include researchers from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Studies Appalachian Laboratory (UMCES-AL), MD DNR Fisheries Service, and the MD DNR Biological Stream Survey (MBSS).  Brook trout in Maryland are valuable for aesthetic, recreational, economic, andbiological reasons. Because of their habitat and life history requirements brook trout aretypically found in the more pristine, aesthetically pleasant areas of Maryland.

 

 

 While there is no commercial fishery for brook trout, recreational angling has been occurring for centuries. There is increasing local and national recognition of the uniqueness and quality of fishing for native brook trout. This recognition is highlighted by the creation of the multi-state Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture (EBTJV) and the formation of the Maryland Brook Trout Alliance, a citizen-based Maryland brook trout advocacy group. While no economic valuation of the recreational fishery has been done in Maryland, findings from Pennsylvania, which has a similar wild brook trout fishery, has shown significant economic impact from the resource. Wild trout anglers in Pennsylvania contribute more than $2 million annually to local economies. Brook trout are considered a biological indicator species because they represent a whole suite of unique aquatic and 8 terrestrial organisms that occupy and share the same habitat. Loss of brook trout from a system indicates negative changes to the habitat and overall system.

 

 

 The goal of the Brook Trout FMP is to “restore and maintain healthy brook trout populations in Maryland’s freshwater streams and provide long-term social andeconomic benefits from a recreational fishery”. Management objectives were developedto support the goal based on a thorough review and analysis of the problems affecting the status and survival of the brook trout resource in Maryland. The management framework to meet the objectives, including the work necessary to implement the plan is provided in the Management Recommendations and Research Needs sections of the FMP. Implementation will require a committed work plan that extends over many years in order to be successful.