A License To Gill: Vanity Plate Sales Fuel Trout Unlimited Grant Bolstering Aquarium’s Brook Trout Restoration Program

Monday, November 6, 2017 - by Thom Benson
Steve Fry; Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute staff: Dr. Bernie Kuhajda, Science program manager; Dr. Anna George, vice president of Conservation Science and Education; Shawna Mitchell, Science coordinator; and Meredith Harris, Reintroduction biologist.
Steve Fry; Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute staff: Dr. Bernie Kuhajda, Science program manager; Dr. Anna George, vice president of Conservation Science and Education; Shawna Mitchell, Science coordinator; and Meredith Harris, Reintroduction biologist.

Despite their undeniable beauty, the Rainbow Trout and Brown Trout found in Southeastern streams are really just gilded aquatic invaders.

Rainbows are native to waterways west of the Rockies, and Browns arrived alongside Germany immigrants in the late 19th century. Since their introduction to the Eastern U.S. in the 1930s (Rainbows) and late-1880s (Browns), these trout species have often out-competed Brook Trout, the only species native to the waterways of Southern Appalachia. Consequently, the modern Southern Appalachian Brook Trout only occupies a fraction — less than 15 percent — of its historical range in Tennessee.

Through the sale of special vanity license plates, however, the Appalachian Chapter of Trout Unlimited has supported efforts by the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute and its partners to better understand and restore the Southern Appalachian Brook Trout to its native range.

Recently, Steve Fry, the chapter’s president, presented a check for $7,500 to Aquarium vice president of Conservation Science and Education Dr. Anna George. This grant is Trout Unlimited’s third contribution to the Institute’s ongoing research into and propagation of this beautiful fish, which is a popular target of anglers and immediately identifiable by its speckled patterning and white-rimmed, red fins.

“The biologists here are the experts,” Mr. Fry said. “They ensure these fish have the correct food, water conditions and temperatures. That’s their thing. We know they’ll do it right.”

The grant from Trout Unlimited will be used to fund the rearing of Southern Appalachian Brook Trout at the Institute’s new freshwater science facility. The fish raised through this program will be released into Stoney Creek, a waterway about 15 miles northeast of Johnson City, Tn.

Several years ago, scientists at the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute pioneered techniques to rear Southern Appalachian Brook Trout in a recirculating system. Using a closed system indoors has several advantages over outdoor flow-through systems, especially when it comes to harsh weather conditions, Mr. Fry says.

“Last year, we had problems with a historic drought and the water temperature got too hot,” Mr. Fry said, referencing conditions at an outdoor hatchery. “The system wasn’t set up for the heat because the water comes from a creek, and the creek got too hot, so they couldn’t raise fish last year.”

Despite a range that extends north into the Great Lakes, Canada and New England, the southern strain of the Brook Trout is genetically distinct from its northern cousins. A 2014 grant from Trout Unlimited also helped fund efforts by scientists at the Conservation Institute to conduct genetic testing on populations of Southern Appalachian Brook Trout released into another stream.

The ongoing support of Trout Unlimited is bolstering a multi-faceted approach to understanding and conserving this vitally important native species, says ichthyologist Dr. Bernie Kuhajda, the Institute’s manager of science programs.

“With the support we’re getting from the Tennessee Council of Trout Unlimited, we’re able to do some scientific investigations into why Brook Trout do what they do but also help to improve the status of a population,” Dr. Kuhajda said. “We’re coming at it both from the scientific side and the management side.

“Trout Unlimited are very serious about trying to understand everything we can about Southern Appalachian Brook Trout. The state of Tennessee, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and non-government organizations like the Tennessee Council of Trout Unlimited are very instrumental in trying to bring these fishes back to somewhat where they were before settlement.”

For more information about the Appalachian Chapter of Trout Unlimited, visit appalachiantu.org.

Click here for video of Southern Appalachian Brook Trout being released.



A Canoe Tour On Lookout Creek Set For July 27

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park would like to invite the public to participate in a free, two-and-a-half hour, family-friendly canoe tour with a ranger on Friday, July 27, at 9 a.m. National Park Parnters and the Friends of Outdoor Chattanooga will sponsor an event where visitors will paddle the quiet waters of Lookout Creek and learn about the rich Civil War ... (click for more)

TWRA Working To Stop Asian Carp

Biologists with TWRA monitor fish populations throughout the state, including species such as invasive forms of Asian carp. There are four species of Asian carp currently in Tennessee including bighead, black, grass and silver carp. Although concerned with all invasive species, TWRA focuses on the impact of silver carp which have greatly impacted west Tennessee.   ... (click for more)

Congressman Zach Wamp Endorses Bill Lee For Governor

Former Congressman Zach Wamp endorsed Bill Lee for governor on Monday. The endorsement from Congressman Wamp, coming after last week’s endorsement from the conservative Free Press Editorial Page at The Chattanooga Times Free Press, shows Lee has built tremendous momentum as early voting is underway right now.  “It is an honor to have the support of Congressman Zach ... (click for more)

Senator Watson And Rep. Hazlewood Ask TDOT To Move Swiftly On Highway 127 Road Project Up Signal Mountain

State Senator Bo Watson (R-Hixson) and Rep. Patsy Hazlewood (R-Signal Mountain) have asked the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) to move swiftly on the Highway 127 project leading up Signal Mountain. In a sternly-worded letter, the lawmakers asked TDOT Commissioner John Schroer to prioritize the road project due to further deterioration of the road. ... (click for more)

Here We Go Again With The Same Cummings Highway, 12th Street Flooding - And Response

Here we go again with the same pitiful news reports about the Cummings Highway Interstate interchange with I-24 - Flooding yet again after a heavy rain.  TDOT is derelict in not having repaired this years ago.  How hard is it to get some excavators out there to dig up the collapsed drainage pipes which TDOT says are the cause of the flooding and replace them with ... (click for more)

Deal With The Graffiti Vandals

I travel to other neat old cities and don't see nearly the graffiti vandalism as in Chattanooga. Why do we allow one or two or three repeat vandals to mar our venerable Walnut Street Bridge, the pillars to the Holmberg Bridge, the remodeled Chief John Ross Market Street Bridge, the walls along our multi-million-dollar Riverwalk, our sidewalks, street signs and our old limestone ... (click for more)