Trout Unlimited lands ‘Golden Trout Award’

  • Members of the Deerfield River Trout Unlimited conduct last year’s trout spawning study in March. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Trout yolk sac fry are hatching. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO—

Staff Writer
Published: 9/12/2018 12:13:51 AM

After conducting a first-of-its-kind trout spawning study in Massachusetts, the Deerfield River Watershed chapter of Trout Unlimited received the highest honor possible from its parent organization: a Golden Trout Award.

The Deerfield River TU Chapter 349 was chosen from among 420 chapters across the country this year for “innovative and thoughtful approaches to build and expand community and advance TU’s overall conservation mission,” says a news release.

The award will be presented at Trout Unlimited’s annual meeting Sept. 21 in California.

The study, with results reported to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), showed that brown trout and some rainbow trout are successfully spawning in the Deerfield River, but that “dramatic changes” in daily flow rates at the Fife Brook Dam are affecting fish populations. Before this study was conducted, it was thought that trout only spawned in smaller Deerfield River tributaries, including Clesson Brook and the Chickley River, said Deerfield TU President Kevin Parsons. But the study found 101 trout spawning beds in a 7-mile stretch of the river between Fife Brook and Great River Hydro’s No. 4 Dam at the Charlemont-Buckland town line. About 37 of these spawning beds in the Deerfield contained eggs.

The local chapter has been participating in FERC’s relicensing of the Brookfield Power hydro-electric facilities in Rowe and Monroe, and last year’s spawning study showed that current hydroelectric operations were hindering the reproduction of wild trout.

Because of these findings, a more extensive fish study will be done this fall. The Deerfield River Watershed TU will be working with Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the federal Silvio O. Conte Anadromous Fish Research Center to assess more impacts of the Fife Brook Dam and also the Bear Swamp Water Pump Storage Facility’s effect on trout spawning. Parsons said the new study will include collecting data to determine temperature tolerance for the fragile yolk sac fry stage and what minimum water levels are necessary for the spawning to take place.

Parsons said FERC has already expressed interest in getting better flows in winter. The local TU Chapter thinks better flows from Brookfield Power’s daily operations will result in greater spawning success, higher numbers of wild fish and an improvement in the river’s ecology.

The local Trout Unlimited chapter had been defunct for several years before it was restarted in 2010 by Parsons and Jeremy McGeorge. The damages from Tropical Storm Irene to the Deerfield River and its tributaries motivated many Trout Unlimited members to get involved.

“People think Trout Unlimited is a fish club,” says Parsons. “It’s not. It’s one of the largest conservation organizations in the country.”

Nationally, Trout Unlimited has 300,000 members, the Deerfield River Watershed TU has about 140 members throughout the entire span of the river, from where it begins in Vermont to Greenfield.

Other conservation projects the group has worked on include:

Working with state Environmental Police to reduce the poaching of fish and other infractions along the Deerfield River.

Helped raise $45,000 to purchase and preserve the Crowningshield Property in Heath.

River clean-up projects that include the North River, and restoration projects on the Chickley River in Hawley and South River in Conway.


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