Eastern Brook Trout - State of New Jersey

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Eastern Brook Trout - State of New Jersey

EasternBrookTroutSpeciesin PerilBy Lisa Barno, Chief, Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries and Pat Hamilton, Principal Fisheries Biologist | New Jersey Fish & Wildlife Digest Buy your license or permit online at January 20082008 Freshwater Fishing Issue www.NJFishandWildlife.com


The brook trout,our official state fish and theonly trout species native to New Jerseywaters, has the distinction of being a valuedsport fish, an important water qualityindicator, and is inextricably linked to ournatural heritage. Their brilliant colorationand distinctive markings make them astand out among all other freshwaterfishes.Wild brook trout currently inhabit over120 small streams cradled in the forestedhills and mountains of north Jersey, andone stream in south Jersey. These wildpopulations are maintained throughnatural reproduction rather than by thestocking of hatchery-reared trout. Thepresence of naturally reproducing brooktrout populations in the most denselypopulated, urbanized state in the nationmay surprise those not familiar with NewJersey’s diverse natural resources. Yet sadly,there are far fewer today than in the past.Until recently, the full extent of what hasbeen lost, and more important—what is atrisk —was not truly understood.Distribution and DeclineOnce occupying almost 200 of thestate’s 900 subwatersheds, brook trouttoday survive here in less than halftheir original range¹. Populations onceabundant across the northern and centralportions of the state have been reducedto small, fragmented remnants. Today,only one possibly-intact subwatershedremains where brook trout are believedstill to occupy at least 90 percent of thatparticular historical habitat.In another 18 percent of thesubwatersheds, brook troutoccupy less than 50 percent oftheir original habitat.Perhaps most alarming isevidence that brook trout arecompletely extirpated from94 subwatersheds in NewJersey, resulting in a loss ofover 62 percent of its originalrange statewide. This is thelargest loss recorded by anystate within the brook trout’snative range. An additional 76New Jersey subwatersheds areclassified as “Unknown” sincebrook trout are not present inthese areas but their historicpresence is uncertain.Declining Eastern BrookTrout populations extend well beyond NewJersey. From Maine to Georgia, brook trouthave completely vanished from more than20 percent of their historic eastern range¹.In 45 percent of subwatersheds whereself-sustaining populations were present ,brook trout occupy less than half of theirhistorical habitat. The majority of historic,large-river brook trout populations nolonger support self-sustaining populations.All lake populations have been eliminatedsave for a few strongholds in Maine.Currently, only five percent of thepopulations are considered to be intactthroughout this trout’s native range.Brook Trout Distribution inNew Jersey 2006Habitat HarbingerThe brook trout’s decline goes wellbeyond the loss of a species. Brook troutare the pickiest when it comes to cold,clean water, and when it comes to habitatstandards, they are elitists. Their tolerancefor nothing but the best makes them a mostvalued indicator species. Declining brooktrout populations serve as a warning thatthe entire ecosystem’s health is at risk.(Continued on page 8) Brook Trout ClassificationsNumber ofSubwatershedsPercentage of SubwatershedsIntact (> 90% habitat occupied) 1 < 1 %Reduced (50 – 90 % habitat occupied) 14 6 %Greatly Reduced (< 50 % occupied) 44 18 %Present, Qualitative data 19 9 %Extirpated 94 38 %Absent, Unclear history 76 30 % January 2008 For more information contact New Jersey New Jersey Fish & Wildlife Digest | Division of Fish and Wildlife at (609)292-29652008 Freshwater Fishing Issue

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