The March/April Explorer contained an interesting article regarding the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Heritage Strain Brook Trout Program. Sadly, with only two fishery biologists currently working in Ray Brook, it appears this valuable program is as endangered as the remnant trout populations they seek to protect and restore.
Brookies are truly the jewel of the Adirondacks. I know the term is overused, but one look at their autumn spawn colors provides proof of the claim. Unfortunately, the fish seem to be of little value in terms of preservation. Recently, a combination of budget cuts, proposed hatchery closures, and staff reductions have brought heritage brook trout restoration efforts to a near standstill.
Ironically, researchers seeking to study the suitability of restoring remote waters are under fire from those who claim to protect the wilderness. Hiker complaints regarding DEC’s use of helicopters to conduct research on backwoods ponds have sometimes stifled the efforts of fishery staff to preserve an invaluable piece of the Park’s magnificent wildlife mosaic.
It is a tough battle as DEC fisheries staff struggle to maintain the few heritage populations that have remained viable in the wild, while working to establish new populations in historic brook trout waters. In the Saranac Lake Wild Forest, despite the exhaustive efforts of pond reclamation, less than 3% of the area’s historic brook trout waters remain intact today.
Joe Hackett, Ray Brook
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