KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
BENNINGTON -- State biologists hope to get some data on how Tropical Storm Irene impacted trout populations last year.
Kenneth Cox, fish biologist with the Department of Fish and Wildlife, said he hopes to conduct a fish census today in spots along the Batten Kill to see how the populations fared. He said the Batten Kill's main branch was altered a bit by the storm but not radically, as some rivers near it were like the Roaring Branch.
Cox said the department tries to do annual fish surveys on certain rivers, but weather hasn't cooperated with such a practice on the Batten Kill lately. He said the flood waters stirred things up and move them around, moving the type of habitat trout favor around.
"Fish populations have been dealing with floods since the beginning of time," Cox said, adding that while a flood like the one last August would knock the population down, it would recover fairly quickly. He said trout depend on debris in the river for cover and food, so damage from flooding is apt to benefit them in the long run.
He said some fish have been counted on the Roaring Branch in places where flood mitigation work was done and where it wasn't. He said trout numbers are up where heavy equipment didn't go into the river.
Over the past few years, the state, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Batten Kill Watershed Alliance had been doing trout habitat restoration work along the river, putting in debris that trout would find attractive and undoing years of human efforts to straighten and keep clear the river. The efforts worked, and Cox said only a few structures placed were lost in the flooding.
Cox said he had heard from anglers that fishing has been good this summer along the Batten Kill.
Chet MacKenzie, fish biologist with the department, said he hopes to take fish surveys in the Walloomsac River, which runs through Bennington, sometime in September but other efforts involving sea lamprey control in other parts of the state may tie that up. He said in other rivers it seems trout populations fare better where there were less mitigation efforts that dug out the river beds, but he can't assume the same for rivers where fish haven't been counted.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr