scientific studies

Report to the Adams Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Kurt D. Fausch, Ph.D., Fisheries Ecologist, July 30, 2018

This study of the potential effects of the introduction of steelhead into the Boardman River concludes that steelhead likely would out-compete brook trout. “There is clear evidence from field measurements and lab and field experiments that juvenile rainbow trout and steelhead can cause decreases in growth and survival of juvenile brook trout, and of juvenile brown trout which have a similar life history and ecology in tributaries of the Great Lakes.”

“Impacts of Exotic Rainbow Trout on Habitat Use by Native Juvenile Salmonid Species at an Early Invasive Stage,” Isabel Thibault and Julian Dodson, Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 2013

This study found that juvenile rainbow trout out-compete and push brook trout out of their native habitat. “We found that juvenile rainbow trout showed a higher growth rate than its two sister species (brook trout and Atlantic salmon), revealing its ability to effectively exploit resources.”

“Growth Decline in Subyearling Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) after Emergence of Rainbow Trout (Salmo gairdneri),” G.A. Rose, Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 1986

This study found that brook trout decreased in length following the emergence of larval rainbow trout. “For brook trout, mean food size increased, and amount consumed decreased, after the emergence of rainbow trout larvae. Growth reduction during the first summer, an outcome of interspecific competition for food and space, may result in increased overwintering mortality of fish at high latitudes, and be a mechanism by which brook trout are excluded by rainbow trout.”

“Seasonal habitat use of brook trout and juvenile steelhead in a Lake Ontario tributary,” J.H. Johnson, R. Abbett, M.A. Chalupnicki and F. Verdoliva, Journal of Freshwater Ecology, 2016

This study discusses how brook trout have been pushed into the headwaters of New York tributaries of Lake Ontario by adult Pacific salmonids. “The decline of brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) populations throughout much of their native range in eastern North America is well documented and has received considerable attention. . . . Among the many factors that are thought to have contributed to the decline of brook trout is interspecific interactions with introduced non-native salmonids, particularly brown trout and rainbow trout.”

“Competitive Interactions Between Artic Grayling and Brook Trout in the Big Hole River Drainage, Montana,” Patrick A. Byorth and James P. Magee, Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 1998

This study assessed the compatibility of non-native brook trout and Arctic grayling. Its conclusion: “We found little evidence that nonnative brook trout negatively affected microhabitat use or growth of native Arctic grayling.”

Conserving the Eastern Brook Trout: Action Strategies, Conservation Strategy/Habitat Work Group, January 2011

This study reports on the alarming decline in brook trout populations across their historic eastern U.S. range, from Maine to Georgia. “The assessment revealed wild brook trout populations in the eastern United States are impaired. Intact stream populations of brook trout, where wild brook trout occupy >90% of historical habitat, exist in only 5% of the watersheds assessed. Populations of streamdwelling brook trout are greatly reduced or have been extirpated from nearly half of the watersheds in their native range. The vast majority of historically occupied large rivers no longer support self-reproducing populations of brook trout.”

Boardman River Assessment — Final Report, August 2018

This report assesses the overall health of the Boardman River watershed. Its findings include the observation that native brook and brown trout are undersized when compared with trout in other Northwest Michigan trout streams due to “a paucity of instream habitat.”

Brown Bridge Dam Failure Report

This report analyzes the causes of a catastrophic accident on October 6, 2012, during the removal of the Brown Bridge Dam. During the drawdown of the 190-acre Brown Bridge Pond, 66 downstream Boardman River residences were flooded by a cascade of water.


essays, videos, resolutions and letters


“Why a Native Fish Coalition?” A masterful essay by Ted Williams, founding member of the Native Fish Coalition in Windham, Maine

May 16, 2014, letter to the Michigan DNR from Dave Leonhard, co-owner of Orvis Streamside in Traverse City

Michael Delp: A Boardman River manifesto

Nature Change (video) — “Bringing Down Sabin Dam — Another Step in Restoring the Boardman River”

Nature Change (video) — “The River Restorer,” a conversation with Amy Beyer, Executive Director of the Conservation Resource Alliance

Nature Change (video) — “Deciding the Fate of the Lower Boardman River,” a conversation with Christine Crissman, Executive Director of the Watershed Center

Nature Change (video) — “Michael Delp and the Fisheries Management Biologist,” a conversation with the DNR’s Heather Hettinger

Nature Change (video) — “Why Do They Do It?” A segment on Boardman River volunteerism featuring the Coalition’s Andrew Adams and Bob Hoxie

The Eastern Brook Trout: A Real Keeper? (video)

Saving Brook Trout in the Smokies (video)

Resolution passed on November 29, 2017, by the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, opposing the passage of non-native fish

Resolution passed on February 22, 2018, by the Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council, opposing the passage of non-native fish

Resolution on FishPass passed on July 10, 2019, by the Brook Trout Coalition, opposing the passage of non-native fish

“Emerging Visions for the Boardman River” — video link to a community forum hosted by the Brook Trout Coalition on August 28, 2019


dnr’s plan to send steelhead up the boardman river

The Great Lakes Sport Fishing News, March/April 2018 — Comments by Heather Hettinger, MDNR fisheries biologist and a charter member of the Traverse City Area Steelheaders (page 3)

2017 email from Traverse City Area Steelheaders (TCAS) showing that Heather Hettinger solicited written comments from TCAS members on whether to send steelhead up the Boardman River (in contrast, opposition groups such as the Brook Trout Coalition and Trout Unlimited were not solicited)

2017 email from MDNR Fisheries Biologist Troy Zorn, showing that Zorn served as a conduit for comments submitted to the DNR by the executive director of the Michigan Steelhead and Salmon Fishermen’s Association

Following are comments made by DNR officials during a January 3, 2018, meeting with members of the Brook Trout Coalition, the Adams Chapter of Trout Unlimited, and other groups opposed to the DNR’s plan to send steelhead up the Boardman:

“The only way you can bring nutrients back into that system, in a useable form, is through fish from the Great Lakes. It’s the only way you can improve your size structure, it’s the only way to get a better fishery out of the Boardman River. . . . You’re stuck perpetually with what you have now.” — Jay Wesley, DNR Lake Michigan Basin Coordinator

“Even though steelhead are not native here, they can adjust to their ecosystem a lot better than we can (by) throwing a hatchery product out there.” — Jay Wesley

“Suckers are probably the largest mover of energy – far and away.” — Gary Whelan, DNR Fisheries Division Program Manager, when asked whether the DNR’s goal of “connectivity” between the Boardman River and Lake Michigan could be achieved by allowing suckers and other native species to pass into the Boardman without allowing steelhead, salmonids and non-native species to enter the river.

Floods and droughts are likely the main causes of population changes for brook trout. Overharvesting can also present a threat to populations of this fish. Additionally, non-native fish that have been stocked in ponds and streams for fishermen are often more aggressive than brook trout and create a risk for this species.”
— The National Wildlife Federation