Trout over 15 inches were tagged as part of a study led by TU volunteers. (Trout Unlimited)
Heavily dammed from its headwaters to its junction with the Connecticut River, the Deerfield River in Massachusetts features several stretches of cold tailwater releases that support a mix of wild and stocked trout. After Trout Unlimited volunteers helped prove that brown trout were reproducing in a 17-mile stretch below Fife Brook Dam, the power company that owns the dam agreed to increase minimum wintertime flows so trout redds would not be dewatered. Shortly after, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife agreed to end stocking brown trout on that stretch and prioritize the thriving wild brown trout population.
Fish were outfitted with PIT tags, passive integrated transponders that tracked their movement throughout the river. (Trout Unlimited)
Volunteer Eric Halloran used a hand-held Yagi antenna to pinpoint the location of individual fish. (Trout Unlimited)
Dam operations on the river sometimes cause this section of the Deerfield to dry up. (Trout Unlimited)
Spawning Trout Study
Regular anglers on the Deerfield had a strong suspicion that brown trout were spawning in the Deerfield below Fife Brook Dam. However, during the winter months, water flows were sometimes so low that spawning redds were being dewatered and destroyed. Using a combination of telemetry studies and electrofishing, volunteers and state biologists were able to confirm that trout were spawning, leading to an agreement by the power company that owns the dam to increase minimum flows during the winter.
Wild Trout Advocacy
Confirming what anglers long suspected, surveys of the Deerfield’s trout populations determined that more than 80 percent of the brown trout from Fife Brook Dam to the Route 2 bridge in Charlemont are wild. In 2023, the state made the decision to stop stocking that section.