07/19/11
Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1.    Blue-winged Olives
2  .  Cinnamon Caddis (mostly Abrams Creek)
3.    Little Sister Caddis (mostly Abrams Creek)
4.    Cream Cahills
5.    Sulphurs
6.    Little Yellow Stoneflies
7.    Little Green Stoneflies
8.    Slate Drakes
9. .  Streamers (Sculpin, Minnows)
10.  Inch Worms
11.  Grasshoppers
12.  Ants
13.  Beetles

Brook Trout Streams - Part 23
It's the time of year when the high elevation streams really become important, so for the next few
days I will be pointing out some high elevation brook trout streams (and some not so high), many of
which you may be familiar with and some you may not be familiar with.

Middle Prong Little River (Last But Not Least)
This will be the last watershed article that covers Brook Trout Streams in Great Smoky
Mountains National Park and we held it for the last article for a good reason. It has
examples of a successfully completed restoration project that was undertaken in the
past (Sam's Creek) as well as a restoration project that is currently in progress (Lynn
Camp Prong).

In case your not familiar, the Middle Prong of Little River is formed by the confluence
of Thunderhead Prong and Lynn Camp Prong. Both of these streams can be
accessed from the trailhead located at the end of the road that follows the Middle
Prong for its entire length. Below the trailhead, the Middle Prong not only lies at a
relatively low elevation, its water is exposed to the direct sunlight because of the
road's close proximity to the stream for most of its entire length. This causes most of
the water below the trailhead to become almost too warm for trout during the hot
summer months, especially if the water levels are low. On the other hand, Lynn Camp
Prong and Thunderhead Prong are both smaller, fast water streams that are well
enclosed by a canopy of tree limbs in most places. They fall at a relatively steep
declination and remain cool enough to support trout well.

Again, for those that may not be familiar, both of these tributaries and some of their
smaller feeder streams have populations of both rainbow trout and brook trout. The
rainbow trout are descendants of trout that were at one time stocked in the park. They
are wild, stream-born trout, but they only exist in the streams of the park because they
were introduced by humans who stocked their ancestors.

The brook trout are native Southern Appalachian species that were once plentiful
throughout the entire Middle Prong and most of the streams of Great Smoky
Mountains National Park, for that matter. They were plentiful until man begin to
destroy their habitat by massive timber cutting operations that took place from the late
1800's until the 1930's. They also begin to stock the streams with rainbow trout,
mostly to provide food for the employees of the timber companies. To make it short
and simple, the native brook trout cannot compete very well with the rainbow trout and
the population and size of the brook trout were greatly decreased by the introduction
of rainbow trout, and for that matter, brown trout which moved into the streams of
what's now the park from stocking that took place outside of the park. There are many
other problems such as acid rain that are associated with the depletion of the native
brook trout populations but the exotic species (wild rainbow trout) are the main reason
for the continued reduction in habitat and populations of brook trout at this point in
time.

This is in some ways beside the point of this article and in other ways not, but just to
point out that
man's stupidity hasn't ended, consider this. The federal
government recently waisted a lot of money borrowed from China and Japan that your
children and grandchildren will have to pay back in order to "restore" some of the old
buildings and homes  to "preserve" the memory of the lumber company operations at
Elkmont, the heart of the previous lumber company's devastation. Contrary, rather
than preserve anything to do with the real owners of the land, the government said to
hell with the native Cherokee Indians. They had rather feature the crooks that almost
destroyed what is now the National Park. As further example, just outside of the park
in the City Limits of Townsend,
the welcome entrance of which is well marked by
hundreds of portable toilets
, the feds, state and local governments decided they
should dig up hundreds of Cherokee Indian graves within the last decade and move
them so that they could build a nice, four-lane highway that's rarely, if ever, needed.
After all, due to even more poor local government management, many of the building
in Townsend are still vacant years after the road to not-much was built.

Back to the native brook trout, as a part of the entire National Park System's efforts to
restore the plants and animals back to what they think (don't actually know in many
cases) is "native", it's now thought wise to remove the wild rainbows that hinder the
populations of native brook trout in some areas of the park. Although this restoration
type of project is far more complicated than what meets the eye and anyone's first
thoughts,
it is in my opinion, very worthwhile. I cannot say the same about some
of the other fish restoration plans and projects underway in other national parks.

Although they don't like to talk about it, or admit it, Yellowstone Park managers are
faced with a far worse tragedy in terms of the destruction of native fish - the
Yellowstone Cutthroat trout. The lake trout in Yellowstone Lake (stocked by buckets
illegally) have actually eaten most all of the Upper Yellowstone River native cutthroat
trout from the Yellowstone Grand Canyon upstream for over seventy miles to the
stream's headwaters outside the park. This includes all the tributaries (spawning
grounds) of Yellowstone Lake and upper Yellowstone River. They have not been able
to stop or even eliminate most of the problem and blame the lack of funding. At the
same time, they came out with a list of mostly completely stupid plans to undertake a
ton of other fish removal projects that are unfunded. For example, they proposed to
remove all the rainbow and brown trout from the upper Gibbon River and restore the
native Yellowstone Cutthroat trout which never even existed in the Gibbon River by
their own admission. To shortcut this crazyness, they propose and are actually
undertaking many other ways to spend tax payers money that doesn't yet exist when
they cannot handle the emergency at hand - Yellowstone Lake.

Although there will always be problems with any complicated, worthwhile project, I feel
the brook trout restoration program, which has so far been well done and which is
heavily privately funded by hard working, dedicated members of private clubs and
organizations,
is a good thing. The program will only be effective for stream sections
that lie above barricades that prevent the wild rainbows from encroaching the
upstream areas restored to native Southern Appalachian Brook Trout. As long as the
restoration program is done using common sense, and is properly funded with
available funds rather than deficient spending, it should eventually result in future
generations being able to enjoy some sections of the Great Smoky Mountains
National Park's freestone streams that are closer to how they existed many years ago.

I will write more about the brook trout of the Upper Middle Prong of Little River
tomorrow including a great little brook trout stream that has been restored - Sam's
Creek.

Copyright 2011 James Marsh