Biologist reports logo Big Spring Creek

Cumberland County
September 6 & 7, 2005

Biologists from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission continued their annual monitoring of the trout population in Big Spring Creek, Cumberland County following the closure of the Big Spring State Fish Hatchery in November 2001. A brief summary from the survey precedes each table or figure below. Big Spring Creek is managed under Heritage Trout Angling Regulations (changing to Catch and Release Fly-Fishing Only in 2006) from 100 feet below the source downstream to the Nealy Road Bridge and managed under Conventional Statewide Inland Regulations from Nealy Road Bridge downstream to the Laughlin Mill Dam in Newville.
Big Spring Creek
Big Spring Creek
Fisheries Management Area 7 and the Coldwater Unit electrofishing Big Spring Creek
Fisheries Management Area 7 and the Coldwater Unit electrofishing Big Spring Creek

Big Spring Creek is stocked with adult and fingerling hatchery brook trout. The fingerling brook trout are stocked from Thomas Dam (Old Fish Barrier) downstream to the Laughlin Mill Dam in Newville. Adult brook trout are stocked from Nealy Road downstream to the Laughlin Mill Dam in Newville. All the hatchery brook trout stocked into the waters of Big Spring Creek are marked by a distinguishing fin clip; fingerlings have their left pelvic fin clipped, adults have the adipose fin clipped. Fin clips allow biologists to determine the origin (hatchery or wild) of brook trout collected during the annual surveys of Big Spring Creek.

Brook trout captured in Big Spring Creek
Brook trout captured in Big Spring Creek

The specific number of adult and fingerling hatchery reared fish that were stocked into Big Spring Creek and the number that were subsequently collected during sampling are reflected in the tables below. Fingerling survival has been poor with less than 1% of the fall-stocked fingerlings being collected during sampling the following year. Adult survival rates were not determined as these fish were planted into areas where immediate harvest is allowed and with the expectation that recreational anglers will harvest the majority of these fish.

Adult and Fingerling Brook trout stocked into Big Spring Creek
Year Total Fingerling Total Adults
2006* 7,600 spring stocking 3,100 spring
2005 4,500 fall stocking 3,100 spring
2004 4,500 fall stocking 3,100 spring

* Increased allocation is due to hatchery production changes. Smaller spring stocked fingerlings will be planted beginning in 2006, therefore the allocation was increased to compensate for expected higher mortalities.

Total brook trout collected from all sampling sites marked with distinguishing fin clips
Survey Year Total Fingerling Total Fingerling Survival Total Adults
2005 3 0.3 % 8
2004 9 0.9 % 16

Enrichment from the hatchery discharge had historically supported an artificially high number of trout in the "Ditch." Since the Big Spring State Fish Hatchery ended trout production in November 2001, and as a result the discharge into Big Spring Creek, rainbow and brown trout biomass have continued to decline. Brook trout biomass has remained relatively stable since 2002. The brook trout captured in this site in 2005 ranged from two to sixteen inches in total length, brown trout captured ranged from twelve to twenty-three inches in total length and rainbow trout ranged from four to fifteen inches in total length.

Trout biomass at the "ditch"

Rainbow trout numbers have continued to decline below the "Ditch." Brook and brown trout biomass has remained relatively stable. Habitat work was completed in the vicinity of this site in June 2004. The brook trout captured at this site in 2005 ranged from two to sixteen inches in total length, brown trout captured ranged from ten to twenty-four inches in total length and rainbow trout ranged from five to sixteen inches in total length.

Trout biomass below the "ditch"

Rainbow trout biomass has increased below the Old Fish Barrier, while brook and brown trout biomass has remained relatively stable. The brook trout captured at this site in 2005 ranged from six inches to fourteen inches in total length, brown trout captured ranged from twelve to twenty-five inches in total length and rainbow trout ranged from four to twenty-five inches in total length.

Trout biomass below the Old Fish Barrier

Low numbers of trout were captured in all sampling years at both of these 100 meter (328 feet) electrofishing sites.

Sampling years at both of the 100 meter electrofishing sites

 
-- John Frederick, Area 7 Fisheries Technician

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