Tracking trout in the Catskills

Small tags that are surgically insterted into the bellies of trout from the East Branch of the Delaware River will help show how trout are using the system. (George Markos photo.)

By Tracy Brown

Halcottsville, NY - Trout Unlimited, in partnership with the New York State Department of Conservation, is tracking trout on the East Branch Delaware River. 

Trout are being tagged and tracked as part of the East Branch Delaware River Trout Habitat Improvement Project (HIP).  

The HIP project is funded by the Delaware County Soil and Water Conservation District as part of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection Management Implementation Program. 

To track the fish, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) units have been installed at several locations above and below Wawaka Lake dam near the hamlet of Halcottsville, N.Y. The readers will also be installed at the mouths of larger tributaries near the dam.  

Tags are implanted into the trout using a minor surgical procedure. The tags communicate with the RFID units using radio waves. During the study 1,400 stocked and wild brown, brook and rainbow trout will be tracked for 2-years.  

Tracking trout will provide insight to fish movement and migration patterns, providing insight into how stocked, naturalized and wild trout use the river, including how they may seek out cooler water during certain times of the year. 

The tiny tags (in plastic cup) communicate radio frequency identification units installed throughout the watershed. (George Markos photo)

“By tracking trout we can better understand if thermal refugia are being used during time of thermal stress and how the Wawaka Lake dam may be impacting the trout fishery,” explained Steve Swenson, senior ecologist at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. “The information gathered from the study will help NYS DEC understand how best to manage the cold-water fishery.” 

The results will also be used to guide TU’s restoration efforts in the watershed.  

TU has already planted more than 780 trees and shrubs along the East Branch in partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation, the DEP and the DCSWCD’s Catskill Stream Buffer Initiative.  

In addition to the planting efforts spearheaded by the Ashokan-Pepacton Chapter of TU, chapter members have been engaged in temperature monitoring upstream and downstream of the dam for the last three years.


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