While numbers of native brook trout are down in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, average size of individual fish is up. That’s exactly what the folks at R&R Fly Fishing in Townsend, Tenn. have been seeing on the streams.
A blog post on the R&R website (randrflyfishing.com) reported on recent surveys conducted with fisheries biologists that show a population decline on one particular stream from a typical 1,500 brook trout per mile down to just 500 brookies per mile this year. That’s a startling decline, but there’s no reason for alarm. It is a reminder that fisheries are cyclical by nature.
R&R pointed to the last two winters of excessive rainfall and flooding as the culprit for population decline that likely translates to other regional streams. Heavy rains during and after the fall spawning season can lead to depressed reproduction, as tiny brook trout fry are washed away by high waters. The result is a temporary population decline. The blog post assures that 500 mostly adult brook trout per mile is plenty of fish to repopulate a stream in a single successful spawning season.
The bright side of the situation is those adult fish in the Smokies have plenty of room to spread out and more forage due to a lack of competition with younger year classes. R&R reports that the average size of fish caught has gone up and that the potential for exceptionally large brookies is as good as they have seen.
Since brown trout spawn at the same time as brookies, it is likely a similar scenario for browns in the Smokies. Populations of rainbow trout, which spawn in spring, are strong.
Check out the R&R Fly Fishing website at randrflyfishing.com.