Bringing Eastern Brook Trout Back to Red Clay Creek

Published on by in Case Studies

Bringing Eastern Brook Trout Back to Red Clay Creek

In Pennsylvania, Property Owners and Farmers Are Transforming Their Lands to Restore a Stream’s Health and Its Native Fish

David Wise

By David Wise

Might brook trout one day swim again in Red Clay Creek? If and when they do, it will be a sign that watershed restoration efforts are working in the stream that runs through southeastern Pennsylvania and northeastern Delaware.

The eastern brook trout ( Salvelinus fontinalis ) is the only trout native to streams of the eastern United States. It is widely regarded as one of the most visually striking American freshwater fish.

Sometimes called brookies, these fish once thrived in the streams of eastern forests and formerly occupied nearly 95% of Pennsylvania’s 1,313 watersheds, according to Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture. Pre-Colonial forests provided the cool, clean water that brookies require.

But with the clearing of forests for timber and farming, and later mining, water quality suffered, and with it, brook trout. Today, just 1.2% of Pennsylvania’s watersheds have vibrant brookie populations. Almost 80% have few or none at all. Their decline reflects watersheds that suffer the stresses of pollution, climate change, and changes in land use.

But hope bubbles up. In the West Branch of Red Clay Creek, local residents are partnering with Stroud™ Water Research Center to restore the watershed to good health for all life that depends on clean water — from bugs to humans to brook trout.

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