Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 12

CREATURE FEATURE

Up a Creek with
the Brookies
Researchers are successfully restoring
Southern Appalachian brook trout
to mountain streams.

There are few sights more
beautiful come autumn,
says Dr. Anna George,
than Southern Appalachian brook trout mimicking the seasonal turn
of the leaves with their
breeding costumes of
iridescent red, glittering
gold and bright pink.
"They're one of the
only fish I know of
that actually spawns in
the fall instead of the
spring," says George, director of the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute (TNACI), a Chattanoogabased research facility that strives to protect regional
freshwater resources. "That's when brook trout are at
their prettiest. You can even see them in some of these
clear springs if you're hiking up them. You'll catch a
flash of red, and it's a male brook trout trying to attract
the ladies."
The only kind native to the Southeast, Southern Appalachian brook trout (SABT) once thrived from Virginia's Shenandoah Valley to the foothills of north Georgia. Smaller than similar fish north of the Blue Ridge,
they also show more adaptive genetic distinctions, with
populations in Tennessee, for example, looking slightly
different from those in North Carolina. Once abundant
in mountain headwaters, the species was all but edged
out in the mid-1800s when European rainbow and
brown trout were added to forest streams for the benefit
of sportsmen who wanted to catch bigger fish. Just as
detrimental, if not more so, was the indiscriminate logging that dumped dirt into the crystal-clear streams and
stripped away shade trees necessary for the SABT to exist, eventually slashing their numbers to about 3 percent
of their historical range.
For the past three years, biologists from TNACI, the
U.S. Forest Service, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agen12 BlueRidgeCountry.com

TODD STAILEY

by Nancy Henderson

Reintroduction biologist Kathlina Alford, left, is helping to restore brookies.

cy, Tennessee Tech University, Trout Unlimited and the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been working to
bring back the native brookies. In October 2012, trout
experts collected 50 brood fish from Hampton Creek
near Roan Mountain State Park, housed them at TNACI, and began raising them in dechlorinated city water,
something that had never been tried before. A month
later, the eggs hatched.
In 2013, scientists from TNACI and TWRA released
255 juveniles, each implanted with a tiny wire tag, into
Hampton Creek and Sycamore Creek near the Cherokee
National Forest. Last year, approximately 1,100 more
young brookies were scattered in the two locations. Every six months or so, a graduate student from Tennessee
Tech catches specimens for the experts to study as they
track the survival of the city-born fish in the wild. A
third release is slated for sometime this fall.
George, who estimates that SABT now inhabit about
13 percent of their original range, points out that other
groups throughout the Blue Ridge are contributing to
the repopulation in less direct ways.
"There are a lot of other projects going on that are
more focused on the habitat and the stream and making
sure that we have healthy riparian zones-the interface
between the forest and the water," she says. "This is just
one small piece of a lot of work to keep a very healthy
southern Appalachian forest."
For George, the best part is release day, when she and
her team members hike up the streams and gently deposit three to eight trout in each pool they encounter.
"Not only am I hiking in a forest, but I'm also playing in water with fish at the same time," she says. "It
really doesn't get much better than that." 


http://www.BlueRidgeCountry.com

Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015

The Family Farm is Alive and Well in the Virginia Mountains
7 States of Mountain Treks, Complete with a Beer or Wine Stop
The Photo Essay: Autumn Beauty
Wendell Scott Gets His Due
Weekend: Where the North Carolina and Tennessee Mountains Rub Shoulders
Chillin’ in Chattanooga
Charlottesville to Charleston aboard Amtrak
Great Tastes of the West Virginia Panhandle
Cavender Cabins: Enjoy the North Georgia Woods
From the Editor
Letters / Worth a Click
Mill Creek Stories
The Hike
Creature Feature
Mountain Report
Great Home Buys in the Mountains
Country Roads
Festivals & Events
Singing in the Garden
Guest Column: Liz Belcher
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - Intro
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - Cover1
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - Cover2
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 3
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 4
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - B1
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - B2
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 5
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - From the Editor
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - Letters / Worth a Click
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - Mill Creek Stories
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 9
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - The Hike
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 11
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - Creature Feature
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - Mountain Report
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - Great Home Buys in the Mountains
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - Country Roads
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 16
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 17
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - Festivals & Events
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 19
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 20
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 21
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - The Family Farm is Alive and Well in the Virginia Mountains
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 23
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 24
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 25
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 26
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 27
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 7 States of Mountain Treks, Complete with a Beer or Wine Stop
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 29
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 30
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 31
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 32
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 33
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - The Photo Essay: Autumn Beauty
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 35
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 36
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 37
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - Wendell Scott Gets His Due
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 39
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 40
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 41
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - Weekend: Where the North Carolina and Tennessee Mountains Rub Shoulders
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 43
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 44
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - Chillin’ in Chattanooga
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 46
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 47
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - Charlottesville to Charleston aboard Amtrak
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 49
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 50
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 51
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - Great Tastes of the West Virginia Panhandle
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 53
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 54
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 55
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 56
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 57
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 58
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 59
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - Cavender Cabins: Enjoy the North Georgia Woods
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 61
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 62
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - Singing in the Garden
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 64
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - 65
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - Guest Column: Liz Belcher
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - Cover3
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2015 - Cover4
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