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Movement Patterns of Brook Trout in a Restored Coastal Stream System in Southern Massachusetts

Populations of anadromous brook trout can be found from northern Canada into New England. It is believed that the extent of anadromy exhibited by coastal brook trout populations decreases with latitude, but the ecology and movements of the more southern populations are less studied. A 33-month acoustic telemetry study of anadromous brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) was conducted in a restored coastal stream and adjacent marine system in southeastern Massachusetts. Movement and migration patterns of 54 brook trout were investigated for individual differences and common features. Individuals exhibited a range of movement patterns. Some were more resident and only moved short distances, while others moved great distances covering the entire stretch of the stream (7.25 km) and moving into the marine environment. General Additive Mixed Models revealed that date was the major influence on brook trout movement between habitats and predicted peaks in movement in the spring and fall. Downstream movement peaked in the spring and in the fall, suggesting post-spawning feeding migration. Fish transitioned between habitats more often at new and full moons and when stream temperature was between 8 and 12 °C. Upstream transitions peaked as temperatures declined in winter 2011. Fifty percent of tagged brook trout were detected in the estuary during the study, suggesting that it is an important habitat for the population. In summer 2012, 14 tagged brook trout (20% of active tags) resided near one receiver at the head of the tide, which contained a thermal refugium in the form of a cold-water spring seep. Of the 84 tagged brook trout, 9.5% moved to the marine environment. Warm temperatures in saline Buttermilk Bay in the summer and cold temperatures in winter probably discourage some individuals from entering the marine environment. Compared to more northern coastal populations of brook trout, the Red Brook population appears to be less anadromous.

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