Westport’s sea run brook trout live fragile existence


By Matt Patrick

Steve Hurley, a trout expert with the Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife, said the best thing we can do to protect the unique population of sea run brook trout is to keep land from being developed and to keep road run-off from going into the many streams that flow into the Westport River.

Asked what would happen if we lose these fish during a discussion here last week, Mr. Hurley hesitated, taken by surprise by the question.  He later said that each stream has trout that are genetically linked to it.  This linkage between trout and stream has taken the millennia since the ice age to evolve.  Once they are gone, they are gone for good and we will lose an uncommon natural resource and its place in the ecosystem.  We will also lose the economic benefits of a sea run brook trout fishery that could attract fly fishermen from all over the world.

Cold, clean water is key to the trout’s survival.  Storm water discharges into these tributaries raises water temperatures.  Trout need water temperatures under 70 degrees Fahrenheit to survive and actually prefer water below 60 degrees.  Storm water run-off also puts siltation and contaminants from our roads into the streams which inhibits reproduction.

Culverts, like dams, besides warming water can become obstacles to diadromous fish runs like the sea run brook trout.  Other examples of diadromous fish include the American eel and various herring.  He pointed to the Town of Westport’s effort to replace the culvert at the Drift Road and Sam Tripp Brook.  The old granite culvert had collapsed preventing fish passage up and down the stream.

Mr. Hurley was a guest of the Westport River Watershed Alliance and the Westport Fishermen Association.  Both groups will plan maintenance and stream restoration efforts to protect and increase the population of the Westport River Watershed sea run brook trout.  Volunteers who are interested in helping are invited to email Director@wrwa.com



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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.