As of April 26, 2012 we have about 150 fingerling brook trout at the hatchery. Yes they are fingerlings and no longer fry. Most are over 2 inches long; they are feeding well; and are retaining their inherent fear of people.
We operated the Tellico Brook Trout Hatchery as a flow through system this winter because we were not able to get the re-circulating system purchased and assembled. Additionally, because we had such a warm winter, the temperature of the water that feeds the hatchery never stayed cold (below 40oF) for very long. The fry kept on feeding all winter. So, basically, even if the re-circulating system had been set up the fry would not have grown much faster. But, we all know that this winter was much warmer than most and a recirculating system at Tellico is essential for insuring good growth of the fry.
The adult brook trout that were collected and spawned last fall were held over with plans to keep them for spawning next fall. These fish are also retaining their wild characteristics and should not pass on any hatchery traits. We are not selecting “brood” fish that are easy to handle; grow exceptionally well on trout chow; or are adapted to seeing people. Plans, for now, are to spawn these fish in the fall along with additional brook trout that will be collected in September/October then feed them for a couple of months to restore their body fat before releasing them back into Sycamore Creek. The brook trout collected this fall will be held for a second spawning if this procedure works out for the currently held fish.
We have had two interns at the Tellico Brook Trout Hatchery over the winter. They did their work well and, hopefully, benefitted from the experience of working at the hatchery. We will find another intern to begin work in September.
On April 19 Jim Herrig (US Forest Service), Travis Scott (TWRA), and Steven Mattocks (intern) hiked into the headwaters of Sycamore Creek with two backpack shockers and all the gear needed to conduct an electrofishing survey. We electrofished below the natural barrier and caught 53 brook trout, including 10 Young-of-the-Year. We weighed and measured all of them. Their condition was excellent. There were lots of bugs emerging including large yellow mayflies (see picture). We also collected 17 rainbow trout which were also in good condition. One rainbow was over 10 inches. Hopefully, we will soon see brook trout of that size and quality in Sycamore Creek and other streams in East Tennessee as we continue our efforts to restore this native species.