Since February of 2010, the U.S. Forest Service, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, and other federal, state, and private partners have been working together to develop a pilot proposal for restoring Southern Appalachian brook trout using the Tellico Southern Appalachian Brook Trout Hatchery as a core component. Building on previous successes the primary objectives of the new pilot project and partnership are:
1. Expand the development of existing propagation protocols to provide for culturing Southern Appalachian brook trout in a self-contained recirculation system.
2. Evaluate the feasability of utilizing the Tellico Southern Appalachian Brook Trout Hatchery as a model that might be applied at other intererested hatcheries throughout the Southern Appalachian brook trout distribution range.
3. Identify high priority watersheds for Southern Appalachian brook trout restoration consideration within operational proximity of the Tellico Hatchery.
During early Fall adult spawning brook trout from a Southern Appalachian source population are collected and taken back to the Tellico Southern Appalachian brook trout hatchery. The anticipated number of females needed should be from 25 to 50. A 6 to 8 inch female brook trout should produce around 160 total eggs. The goal is to collect 4,000 to 8000 eggs from a population/system. A cooperative agreement with the Southern Appalachian Backcountry Horsemen Club will assist with transporting the adults out to hatchery trucks. SABH will also assist with transporting fingerlings back to the stream for stocking. By May, the expected number of fingerlings that survive to 3 inches should be around 1,500 to 3000. In order to retain their wild traits, human contact will be minimized as much as possible. Whle in the hatchery and during the grow out stage, fingerlings will also be converted to live foods as soon as they are able to forage on appropriate size plankton and invertebrates such as daphnia, rotifers, etc. This would hopefully provide fingerlings with a competitive advantage once they will be required to forage on natural foods. The target stocking rate once the fingerlings are stocked into the target restoration stream is 2,000 per mile. With 3 incubation and grow-out systems in the hatchery, it is estimated that 2 to 3 streams could be restored each year.
During winter before rainbow trout have had a chance to spawn their numbers will be reduced – not eliminated – by electrofishing. Although the goal is to remove as many rainbow trout as possible, recent studies have shown that rainbow and brook trout will co-exist. These studies have further shown that rainbow and brook trout are not capable of displacing each other unless a natural or manmade event disrupts the balance between the two. Additional studies have shown that in years of heavy flows these will tend to benefit rainbow trout and in years of drought this will tend to benefit brook trout. This may be a consideration that needs to be factored into planning.
The pictorial below demonstrates how rainbow trout population reduction and Southern Appalachian brook trout restoration are completed within a stream system:
A typical stream system would be occupied entirely by rainbow trout. First order tributaries (single blue lines) do not provide enough suitable habitat for salmonid survival)
No chemical treatments to remove rainbow trout would be required.
No adverse impacts to the environment would need to be considered.
Southern Appalachian brook trout fingerlings are conditioned to be a part of the competative advantage process.
The environmental analysis would be minimal and project approval and implementation would be quicker.
One hatchery operating 3 systems could restore 5 miles of stream per year.
The existing Tellico hatchery is designed to be a prototype and provides the opportunity to develop necessary protocols and procedures.
After a few years of successful restoration, other state and federal hatcheries throughout the Southern Appalachian brook trout range could partner in the initiative as well.
Annual operating cost are manageable. For one hatchery with three systems the estimated cost is $18,000 but may be cheaper at established hatcheries.