Fall and Early Winter Movement and Habitat Use of Wild Brook Trout
Brook Trout Salvelinus fontinalis populations face a myriad of threats throughout the species’ native range in the eastern United States. Understanding wild Brook Trout movement patterns and habitat requirements is essential for conserving existing populations and for restoring habitats that no longer support self-sustaining populations.
To address uncertainties related to wild Brook Trout movements and habitat use, we radio-tracked 36 fish in a headwater stream system in central Pennsylvania during the fall and early winter of 2010–2011.We used generalized additive mixed models and discrete choice models with random effects to evaluate seasonal movement and habitat use, respectively. There was variability among fish in movement patterns; however, most of the movement was associated with the onset of the spawning season and was positively correlated with fish size and stream flow. There was heterogeneity among fish in selection of intermediate (0.26–0.44 m deep) and deep (0.44–1.06 m deep) residual pools, while all Brook Trout showed similar selection for shallow (0.10–0.26 m) residual pools. There was selection for shallow residual pools during the spawning season, followed by selection for deep residual pools as winter approached. Brook Trout demonstrated a threshold effect for habitat selection with respect to pool length, and selection for pools increased as average pool length increased up to approximately 30 m, and then use declined rapidly for pool habitats greater than 30 m in length. The heterogeneity and nonlinear dynamics of movement and habitat use of wild Brook Trout observed in this study underscores two important points: (1) linear models may not always provide an accurate description of movement and habitat use, which can have implications for management, and (2) maintaining stream connectivity and habitat heterogeneity is important when managing self-sustaining Brook Trout populations.