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Tree planting Saturday

Ron Merly with a salter brook trout he caught.

The Sea Run Brook Trout  Coalition will plant trees in Stonington Saturday, the next step in a project that was supported by Nutmeg TU.

Volunteers are needed to help plant some 100 trees will in an area of Anguilla Brook on Saturday, April 28. The Nature Conservancy and DEEP partnered with the landowners to have a dam removed on the property a few years back, revealing a beautiful streambed now in need of thermal protection.

The planting is scheduled for 11 a.m., with a rain date of Sunday, April 29, and a deluge date of Saturday, May 5.

The location is at the end of Lane Way in North Stonington which is right off of Route 1 and looks more like a driveway than a road.

Take shovels, pick axes, pitch bars and anything else that would be helpful in planting trees.

Changes coming to sea-run trout program


By Ron Merly

State fisheries biologist Tim Wildman has not been happy with the number of annual returns of sea-run brown trout that are currently released into Connecticut estuaries. Seeforellen browns from Germany, which are indigenous to their lakes, are raised at Connecticut’s Kensington Hatchery and released into some lakes and reservoirs, but are also used for stocking sea-run brown trout as well. These fish do not have a dianadromous lineage: In other words, they do not run out to sea and return, they live in lakes.

Wildman resurrected the sea-run brown trout program in Connecticut in 2000 when he saw trout being destroyed as too many were being raised to release into the state’s waters. He took the excess fish and began releasing them into several estuaries around the state. (See the Flyfisher’s Guide to Connecticut for more info on where to find them).

After approximately 10 years of light returns, Wildman began to search European countries for natural strains of sea-run brown trout. There are many, however the standards for importing fish into this country are very strict so that diseases are not brought into our waters. After years of research and the convincing of his bosses, he has successfully imported a natural sea-run brown trout strain from a country that borders the Baltic Sea. Wildman asked that I not disclose the country so I will not.

This exciting change will begin to occur this year (2014), so returns should be seen in 2 to 3 years. These fish have a vast range that naturally covers an area about ths size of Long Island Sound. This strain of brown trout should return at an average of 6 to 8 pounds, but some grow as large as 15 pounds in the Baltic. Wildman hopes to establish significant returns of the browns and would like to see Connecticut become a sea-run trout fishing destination. Tim also said that not one fish was lost during the importation process so they appear to be a very hearty strain.

Lets keep our fingers crossed!! Thanks to Tim for all of his effort and we wish him well in this endeavor.

Help needed to start salter restoration

The Nutmeg Chapter is proud to announce that it is at the forefront on the historic restoration of sea-run brook trout to Connecticut waters. The Nutmeg and Mianus chapters have collaborated with T.U. National and the Sea-Run Brook Trout Coalition to  donate funds to get the ball rolling for the project, which will begin on Sunday, April 7.

Restoration will begin in Stonington, as there are three streams in close proximity that meet the criteria for restoration. Most of the streams in our area will not be conducive to restoration as they are dammed near the salt water. Salters will not climb fish ladders or fishways.

Volunteers are needed for the installation of data loggers on April 7. All Nutmeg members who can pitch is should meet where Anguilla Brook passes beneath Route 1 in North Stonington at 9 a.m.. TU will also deploy the loggers in Copps and Donahue Brook as well. Please join us.

Bringing back the salter brook trout

Editor’s Note: At its Dec. 6 meeting, the Nutmeg TU Board of Directors voted to contribute $2,500 of the $5,000 needed to start a fund to help the Sea-Run Brook Trout Coalition bring the fish back to Connecticut.

By Ron Merly

Before brown and rainbow trout were introduced into American waters in the 1860’s and 70’s, the only trout that were naturally found in Connecticut waters were brook trout (actually a char). Brook trout inhabited most of the streams in our state as well as throughout the eastern section of the country.  Sea-run, or salter brook trout were brookies that were caught in the salt estuaries of streams emptying into the saltwater throughout New England and on Long Island. The fish were plentiful and were prized by anglers for their size as well as being delicious table fare. It was common to catch salter brook trout between 6 and 10 pounds and not just one.

As the rivers were dammed and polluted from the Industrial Revolution salter brook trout, like their cousin the Atlantic salmon, were unable to reach their traditional spawning grounds and as a result, populations all but disappeared except for a few little known streams scattered throughout New England.

Ron Merly with a salter brook trout he caught.The Cape has always been a place where these fish were notoriously sought and caught so in the mid 1970’s, restoration work began on remnant populations in Red Brook (See Theodore  Lyman Preserve Red Brook Mass) and afterward, several other streams on Cape Cod. The restoration work proved to be a huge success and continues on streams throughout the Cape. Massachusetts government is now behind the restoration and works with T.U. and the Sea-Run Brook Trout Coalition (SRBTC) on these efforts.

Because of the success of these  restorative projects on the Cape, T.U and the SRBTC are interested in the restoration of salters in other New England  states. Not every stream is a candidate. The criteria for restoration is pretty simple although the research to discover this simple criteria took years of study. In order for a stream to be a candidate for restoration, it must have a wild population of brook trout in its waters. Stocked brook trout do not survive, only wild fish seem to be able to adapt to the salt. The stream must have no barriers so that the fish can freely travel back and forth from the salt to the river making dam removal neccesary. If the stream to be restored is currently being stocked with any trout, the stocking must stop. Brook trout will not climb steep fish ladders so natural passage is preferred.

Finally, there is a general misconception that trout wind up downstream in the salt because they get washed downstream during heavy flows. Trout do not get washed downstream, they know where to hold during heavy flows. The reason that fish move downstream and into a salt estuary is due to food competition. As a stream becomes more and more populated with fish, there becomes competition for the food source. When the dominant fish chase other fish out of their feeding holds, it causes those fish forced out to seek out a place to eat which is how they eventually wind up in the saltwater. Ironically, those fish that were displaced due to food competition are the ones that will grow large because of the rich salt  environment.

T.U. National and the SRBTC have been working with other states to begin restoration in other areas. The first steps toward restoration in Connecticut were recently taken. DEEP biologists, Michael Hopper President of SRBTC, and myself sat down at DEEP headquarters in Old Lyme to establish and begin the restoration of these fish to Connecticut waters. From that meeting, we decided to begin with Anguilla Brook in North Stonington as it meets the general criteria  for restoration. The plan is to begin to electronically monitor the brookies starting in the spring.

The state is unable to fund this project currently so we will need to raise funds through grant applications SRBTC and T.U.  If you have interest in this project please contact Ron Merly.