News  Wild brown trout management in the Deerfield River

After a four-year study, MassWildlife finds that a majority of brown trout in the upper Deerfield are wild, not hatchery raised.
  • Division of Fisheries and Wildlife

Media Contact   for Wild brown trout management in the Deerfield River

Media Contact, MassWildlife

Upper Deerfield River

For the past four years, MassWildlife has been conducting extensive mark-recapture electrofishing surveys on the Deerfield River to assess the brown trout population. The surveys were focused on the upper section of the river from the Fife Brook Dam to the Route 2 bridge crossing in Charlemont. Results from this work show that over 80% of the brown trout in this section of the Deerfield River are wild. These wild trout were born in the Deerfield or a nearby tributary, not stocked as adults from the hatchery. Based on these findings, MassWildlife has decided that brown trout stocking is no longer necessary in this section of the river since there are many wild fish present.

“Fishing in the Deerfield River is better than ever, and anglers will not notice much of a change from the stocking adjustments,” says Adam Kautza, MassWildlife’s Coldwater Fishery Resource Project Leader. “We will continue to stock rainbow trout in this section of the river. Also, the typical allotment of hatchery-raised brown trout usually stocked upstream of the Route 2 bridge will still be stocked further downstream.” The combination of stocked trout and wild brown trout along with two catch-and-release only areas makes the Deerfield a premier destination for all kinds of anglers.

Consistent with the last four years of the survey, MassWildlife biologists will continue to clip the adipose fin of all hatchery-raised brown trout released into the lower section of the Deerfield. “This will enable us to continue monitoring this area and we will know if any hatchery trout make the trip upstream,” says Kautza. “We will continue to monitor the trout population and reassess as needed.” 

This survey, along with other fisheries research, allows MassWildlife to more effectively manage fish populations and to provide a variety of fishing opportunities to the public. This project was made possible by ongoing support from the Deerfield River Watershed Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Greater Boston Chapter of Trout Unlimited. These groups were instrumental in getting this project started and provided physical and financial assistance along the way. “We commend MassWildlife for taking this huge step toward protecting and expanding the wild brown trout population in the upper Deerfield,” says Eric Halloran, president of the Deerfield River Watershed Chapter of Trout Unlimited. “We’ve known for years that this part of the Deerfield has a significant population of wild brown trout. We hope that through our working relationship with MassWildlife the wild trout population in the Deerfield Watershed will continue to expand.”

Anglers can take advantage of great freshwater fishing in the Deerfield and statewide. Go to mass.go/trout to see where MassWildlife is stocking nearly half a million trout this year. Or use MassWildlife’s Go Fish MA! digital fishing map to find pond and lake descriptions, water depth, catch and release areas, boat launches, and bait stores.

wild and hatchery brown trout

As part of the mark-recapture survey, brown trout were tagged with a lightweight marker before being carefully returned to the water. The photos show a tagged wild brown trout (left) and a hatchery-raised trout (right, note clipped adipose fin) just before release.

electrofishing raft

 MassWildlife staff used a raft to capture trout in the upper Deerfield River. Biologists quickly collect data on each fish before releasing them back into the river. This specially designed electrofishing raft was donated to MassWildlife by Trout Unlimited in 2018 and has been used in multiple stream and river surveys.

Media Contact   for Wild brown trout management in the Deerfield River

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