Native Ga Eastern Brook Trout
Initiative has begun.

March, 2007
From Melissa Cummings Georgia DNR Staff.
Edited by Bill Byrd.

SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. (March, 2007) - The brook trout is a one-of-a-kind in Georgia. As the state's only native salmonid (trout) species and the state's official coldwater game fish, the diminishing population of the brook trout has become high priority for some local agencies and conservation organizations.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) has joined with the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture (EBTJV) along with a coalition of state and federal agencies, academic institutions and conservation organizations to support brook trout habitat and population restoration efforts across the eastern United States.

Today, the EBTJV released the very first conservation strategy aimed at restoring healthy, fishable populations of eastern brook trout throughout their eastern native range. In conjunction with this range-wide strategy, 17 states, including Georgia, have created a state-specific plan based on existing brook trout populations and dominant threats.

The focus of Georgia's brook trout management plan revolves around conserving the species so it will remain a viable and important component of the state's sport fishing resource. Major strategies involved in implementing the plan include: assessment of current brook trout populations in Georgia, habitat enhancement and protection, restoration of brook trout populations, public education and the enhancement of fishing opportunities.

Current conservation strategies, both range-wide and statewide are based on the status and threats information contained in the Joint Venture's initial report issued in May 2006. This report uncovered that only 5% of historical brook trout habitats remain intact. Populations have been nearly eliminated or significantly reduced in almost half of the areas that have historically supported brook trout. Poor land management practices and competitive species are responsible for the majority of the decline.

"Once the partnership recognized the threats facing brook trout within its historic eastern range, we developed regional and range-wide strategies to take swift and deliberate steps to conserve strong populations and restore weaker ones," explains Steve Perry, Inland Fisheries Division Chief for the NH Fish and Game Department and Chair of the Joint Venture. "We created a model for fish conservation - a large-scale, habitat-focused conservation strategy for species at risk. This strategy provides us with a roadmap to significantly improve brook trout populations by 2025."

The present range of brook trout in Georgia has significantly decreased due to a variety of factors, all associated with human activities. Existing Georgia brook trout have short life spans, with few individual trout exceeding age three and/or reaching lengths longer than six to eight inches. Despite the significant population decrease, the current population in Georgia remains relatively stable, due in part by brook trout stream location. Most streams are located at high elevations on U.S. Forest Service lands, thus protecting brook trout from most disturbances. There currently exist approximately 150 miles of brook trout streams in Georgia.

"The significance of these state efforts really can't be overstated," emphasizes Gary Berti, Eastern Brook Trout Campaign Coordinator for Trout Unlimited and EBTJV Communications Chair. "They are the ones who will do the hard work to make this range-wide plan a reality. And they will need support from conservation groups, watershed associations, landowners, businesses, educators, citizens and policy-makers at all levels to accomplish the ambitious goals laid out in this strategy."

The Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture partnership began in 2002 as one of the nation's first pilot projects under the National Fish Habitat Initiative, which directs locally driven efforts that build private and public partnerships to improve fish habitat. The EBTJV is always seeking additional partners and support to assist in the protection and restoration of brook trout habitat.

Anglers can support Georgia trout conservation and management programs by purchasing a Trout Unlimited license plate. Funds from the plates benefit the WRD Fisheries Management section's conservation efforts, including trout production, stocking and stream restoration in North Georgia. Tags can be purchased at local county tag offices for a one-time fee of $25.

For more information on the EBTJV range-wide strategy, Georgia EBTJV strategy, or how to get involved, visit the EBTJV website or call the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division at (706) 947-3112.