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Understanding Brook Trout Invasions in Idaho High Country Bull Trout Streams

Non-native brook trout were introduced to Idaho more than 100 years ago and since that time they have found a home across many drainages in our state. While having brook trout in some places makes for a great day fishing, in others, they are a threat to an iconic Idaho native, the bull trout. Brook trout have the capability to outcompete and cross-breed with bull trout which is not a good thing. So, understanding brook trout populations in Idaho is an important research topic for bull trout conservation, and one University of Idaho graduate student aims to do just that.

An American classic

Brook trout have been called a lot of things in their time as an American sportfish, but one thing they’ve never been called is ugly. Their beautiful colors and delicious fillets have made them a classic sportfish in the eastern U.S. since colonial times. As the west was settled, homesick easterners grew to miss their favorite sportfish and wanted to be able to catch them in places like Idaho.

A legacy of stocking

Beginning in the late 1800s, brook trout were stocked in streams, rivers, and lakes across the West, where they are not native. Some of these efforts failed, while others created popular fisheries. However, in some places brook trout spread far beyond where they were originally stocked, and into some of the most pristine high-elevation streams in Idaho. This might not have been a big problem, except that another species, bull trout, already called many of these streams home.

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