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Valley Angler: Out with Tin Mountain's Trout Research Project

Last week, I had the pleasure, once again, of participating in Tin Mountain's Trout Research Project. This is the third year in a row that I have taken part in this project. As you may remember from previous columns, the project involves the restoration and study of trout habitat on a dozen or so small streams through out the valley. Streams being studied are in Madison, Freedom, Tamworth, Albany and Conway.

Once again, I took part in the electro shocking of one of the streams located in the Conway area. It never ceases to amaze me at the amount of small trout that are in these streams. We shocked five 100 foot sections and each section yielded over 20 trout. Needless to say, there is a wide variety of sizes. Most are quite small, some less than an inch in length. A whopper might be seven inches. These are probably not the kind of trout that most anglers would target, but they are very important to the overall health of the trout population.

If you have never participated in electro-shocking survey you owe it to yourself to try it. The electro-shocker looks a lot like a World War II mine detector. A large back pack contains the electronics and the battery that powers the device. The operator sweeps a wand back and fourth just under the water. The wand is what delivers the juice. Two or three volunteers, armed with nets, walk beside the fellow with the shocker. The net men scoop up the fish that float to the surface when shocked. Everyone in the water wears waders and heavy rubber gloves. A bucket man follows along depositing the fish into his bucket.

At the end of the 100 foot section the trout collected are measured for length and then weighed. All of the data is recorded and in the end the trout are released back to the stream.

This isn't as easy as you might think. The trout recover very quickly and the netters have to be fast. A good netter needs to have good eyesight and be exceptionally quick. Our netters this day were very adept and we had very few misses. As I mentioned, we measured more than 100 trout in the time we were on the water. One of the volunteers who weighed fish with me remarked that in all his days fishing this was by far he most trout he had ever handled in a single day. Afterwards, I was thinking about this and realized that this was the mythical "100 trout day" that some anglers like to brag about.

This is the third year of the project and there is a lot of data still needed. The stream that we were on had been "treated." In other words, some stream enhancements had been made. Although way too early, and with no scientific evidence to back it up, the consensus was that there had been some increase to the resident population. It may have been just wishful thinking. Only time will tell.

If you are interested in volunteering your time to this project give the folks at Tin Mountain a call. I am sure that they would be glad to have you along.

See you on the river.

Bill and Janet Thompson own North Country Angler in North Conway.
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