Spawning Trout at Muddy Creek

Brown Trout (Caught Elsewhere in the Gunpowder Falls)
Brown Trout (Caught Elsewhere in the Gunpowder Falls)

Last month, while planting at our Muddy Creek Stream Restoration Project, Ecosystem Restoration Specialist Danny Waskiewicz spotted a pair of spawning brown trout in the upper part of our restoration area in the mainstem of Gunpowder Falls.  

While this might seem like a routine spotting as Maryland trout have fall spawns, discovering a redd (spawning bed) in this location is significant. Trout are particularly sensitive to environmental conditions, such as water quality and temperature. This means that a suitable breeding habitat for these selective fish is hard to come by. The presence of redds demonstrates success in supporting biological function in restored streams and that our Muddy Creek Project achieved one of its primary objectives: habitat restoration.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen trout return to the project area; we spotted brook trout in another restored project reach in 2020. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) independently confirmed brook trout’s use of the restoration area for spawning and various life cycle needs. Confirmation of these activities by resident trout within the confines of the restoration is a fantastic indicator that this restoration project resulted in only positive impacts, successfully recovering system function while maintaining and improving the pristine water quality required by trout.

Relocating Native Brook Trout
Relocating Native Brook Trout on the project site in 2020

According to DNR’s 2006 Brook Trout Fisheries Management Plan, 25.5% of Maryland’s brook trout stream populations can be found in the Gunpowder basin. Additionally, “almost half (18 of 38 populations, or 47.3%) of all brook trout populations occur with brown trout populations.” This means that even though brown trout are not native to Maryland, finding them is a likely indicator of native brook trout also habituating the area.

The presence of trout in the Gunpowder Falls and adjacent tributaries guided a lot of our restoration design decisions. We added carefully graded gravel beds using specific size ranges to encourage redds, wood elements and boulder clusters to create habitats, and more. We also connected with DNR and Trout Unlimited to create the most beneficial design for trout while considering other project goals and the species’ sensitivities. Trout are crucial to Maryland’s economic and social well-being, as trout fishing is a common recreational practice. DNR’s Fisheries Service is committed to the conservation efforts of brook trout, and provides numerous resources for anyone interested in learning more. For other trout species, DNR also funds and facilitates a trout stocking program that raises and releases brown, rainbow, and golden rainbow trout to support these recreational opportunities without hurting the brook trout population.

GreenVest is thrilled to see spawning activity in Gunpowder Falls as confirmation that the project has provided clean, low-temperature spawning habitat for these sensitive species.