Category Archives: Electrofishing Survey

Day 1 of Operation Wild Brook Trout

Over the next three days, we are catching, radio-tagging and releasing wild brook trout living in Shu Swamp. The plan is to compare their movements and habitat preferences to the hatchery-reared brook trout. The tags we are using can last 5 – 6 months so we may even see evidence of spawning if we are really lucky. Over the summer we hope to tag and release 10 wild trout. We just received our first batch of 5 tags and today we set out to catch 5 wild trout to take back to the Hofstra Animal Lab for a short stay: swim performance tests, tagging and then release, all within the next 48 hours. Sounds like a fun weekend at the health spa doesn’t it?

Maryanne, Brian, and I met up with Steve DeSimone, CSHFH director and operator of the backpack electrofisher you see here.

We immediately startied catching fish. The problem was they were the hatchery fish we released last month. We knew because we checked them with our portable PIT-tag reader which allowed us to identify each individual. All in all we caught and released six of the 28 we had released. Three of these had been detected before at the PIT-tag antenna downstream at the railroad bridge entering Beaver Lake, and one had been detected at the spillway antenna a mile away just 5 days ago!

Fortunately things started to pick up. All in all we managed to catch 4 wild trout, one short of our goal, before we ran out of stream to fish (we reached Frost Mill Road Dam). Three  of the trout had PIT-tags attached at the previous electrofishing event back in early March and one was newbie.

Along the way we also caught some other critters including some spiny-cheeked crayfish:

And a few YOY brook trout including this beauty (be sure to compare its size to the one shown at the March survey link.

YOYAs usual there were some beautiful wildflowers in bloom. Anybody know what this is?

We lso had a surprise visit from about 30 students from Pasadena Elementary School in Plainview who were there to release the fingerlings they had raised through the TITC program. They got to see the brook trout we had caught as well as the crayfish featured above. The adults we had caught might very well have had their origin a few years ago in a Long Island TITC classroom maybe even their own! I think they were really excited to think that maybe their “babies” might one day reach adulthood in its native habitat.  As part of the TITC experience, participating classrooms visit CSHFH in November to learn about brook trout and see the egg fertilization process. Their visit was featured on Long Island News .

The four “keepers” were transported in coolers and now reside in the animal facility at Hofstra. Here is one that is about 10″ and a 1/2 pound:

Wild trout back at lab

Tomorrow they all go for a swim and a quick surgical procedure. Stay tuned!

Electrofishing at Beekman Creek

Beekman Creek is tiny stream located in Oyster Bay about where West Shore Road intersects Mill Hill Rd. It is just west of Mill Pond and actually empties into Mill Creek, which in turn empties into the Bay just west of the Waterfront Center after passing through a culvert that runs about 500 yards from West Shore Road to Mill Creek. What distinguishes this creek is that it may contain honest-to-goodness heritage brook trout that are sea run! The last time it was surveyed was in 2007. Today CSHFH (Steve), NYSDEC (Heidi and Bob), LITU (John), Friends of the Bay (Barry Lamb and Paul DeOrsay), and the Hofstra team (Maryanne, Brian, and I) electrofished the creek.

Steve DeSimone electrofishing

Steve DeSimone electrofishing

We started at the entrance to the culvert on West Shore Road, which you can just make out in this picture amidst the trash and brambles.

Culvert under West Shore Road.

Culvert under West Shore Road.

We then moved upstream towards its passage under LIRR.

Looking upstream to tunnel under railroad.

Looking upstream to tunnel under railroad.

Some of the stream looked pretty good:

This section looks pretty good.

But there has been significant degradation of the stream habitat.

One section of the creek has been so dammed up with debris that it has become an impassable pond. Unfortunately the survey turned up only a few sticklebacks, eels, and a tadpole (and no brook trout):

One of our few catches: a tadpole.

One of our few catches: a tadpole.

Perhaps we were just unlucky this time and we haven’t lost another remnant of Long Island’s glorious brookie past. But clearly Beekman Creek is in need of some TLC.



Latest Electrofishing Survey at Shu Swamp

Steve operating the electrofishing equipment

Steve operating the electrofishing equipment

On Tuesday, March 11, we conducted an electrofishing survey of Beaver Brook. Steve DeSimone of CSHFH operated the backpacker, Heidi O’Riordan and Bob O’Connell of NYSDEC collected data, Maryanne Grey, Brian Bartlett (my Hofstra U grad students), and John Fischer (LITU) took on the netting responsibilities, while I helped with PIT-tagging captured brook trout.

Our biggest find was the collection of two YOY brook trout, each about 2 cm length. These guys were probably about 3 weeks old. Last year we didn’t detect brook trout during the electrofishing survey which occurred the first week of March. Our first observation of YOY last year was 3/11/2013 so that’s pretty close to the same time as this year. At any rate YOY have become a pretty regular happening at Shu Swamp.

Our first Young of the Year!

Our first Young of the Year!

We also caught 18 one year or older trout (last year we caught 19). For the first time we PIT-tagged wild trout before release. Now we will be able to see if there are any differences in their movements downstream. We also mapped the position of all captures. The online map will be updated to include these positions.

A yearling brook trout captured in our survey.

A yearling brook trout captured in our survey.

None of these fish had PIT-tagged. This was the same result we got last year. The 230+ hatchery fish we have PIT-tagged and released thus far have simply vanished!

Heat of swamp cabbage melted the snow in its vicinity.

Heat of swamp cabbage melted the snow in its vicinity.

Troll Trout Returns

Today we did the second leg of our electrofishing of Beaver Brook. This time we did a small branch that feeds from the east into the main brook. It has looked like promising habitat for small brook trout including possibly young-of-year (YOY). Well we didn’t find any YOY but we did find 5 fairly small brook trout ranging from 14 to 20 cm (5.5 to 8 inches). There were plenty of eels, and some lampreys, nine-spined stickleback, pumpkinseed, and a small largemouth bass.

Troll_trout_electrofishing_3_5_13We then went down to the pond and worked our way up to the first footbridge (where we started electrofishing last week). There are plenty of deep holes and hiding places so it looked like good trout habitat, but nothing until we got to the footbridge. Troll trout (at least I think its the same fish), was once again hanging out under the bridge. I had not seen him since the end of last summer. We managed to catch him using the electrofisher. He is a whopper weighing in at 287 grams (2/3 lb) with a fork length of 30 cm (12″). After weighing and measuring length and a short photo shot for his/her admiring fans, we let him go under the bridge. Looking forward to seeing him again soon!

Electrofishing Survey at Beaver Brook

For the first time in four years an electrofishing survey was conducted at Beaver Brook. We started at 9 and finished a little after 1.  The excitement of finding lots of fish overshadowed the discomfort we felt from below freezing temperatures. Steve DeSimone of Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery operated the backpack electrofisher. Heidi O’Riordan and Kathleen Marean of NYSDEC kept the measurements with help from John Fischer of Long Island Trout Unlimited, I was joined by two of my graduate students, Maryanne Grey and Brian Bartlett.

In this video you can see from right to left Steve, John, Maryanne, and Brian electrofishing

12" Brookie

12″ Brookie

Later I will have a more thorough post of what we found, but here are some preliminary findings. We found somewhere around 20-25 brook trout running from 200 (8″) to 300 (12 “) mm and pretty much  along the entire stretch of the brook. This is comparable to the earlier surveys performed in the mid-2000’s. One of the trout we found was good ole #18 or at least we are pretty sure it’s 18. It was hanging out right about where we detected it last month when the battery ran out.

Here's #18 (I think)! Look for the radio antenna

Here’s #18. Look for the radio antenna coming out of the body cavity between the pectoral and pelvic fins.

Unfortunately none of the trout had PIT-tags. Where did those 100 fish go?!?

We also found lots of large-mouth bass (one was 1 or 2 pounds), a bull-head catfish, yellow perch, lots and lots of pumpkin seeds, blue-gills, golden shiners, killifish, a mosquito fish, ten-zillion eels, and one rather cute (if that is the word) lamprey.


Lamprey on ice


Lamprey trying to burrow into Heidi’s hand.






So, all-in-all, a very fun and interesting day.

Brian releasing a few of the trout we caught

UPDATE on (presumed) Trout #18. This trout was tagged on 10/22/2012 and released the next day. At the time of release it was 150 mm length and 29.1 grams body weight. Today it measured 204 mm and 84 grams body weight. Apparently it seems to be eating well. (Short of surgically removing the tag and reading its ID number it is not possible to be 100% certain this is 18. But given its location and the lack of other alternative tagged fish its pretty certain).