Rare brook trout found in ‘Heart of Tug Hill’

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Trout Unlimited and Trout Power, in partnership with Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust, have found genetically unique brook trout, sometimes called “heritage” trout, in some of the most remote headwaters streams in the heart of the Tug Hill core forest, or the “Heart of Tug Hill.”

The Tug Hill Chapter of Trout Unlimited, using citizen science protocols developed by the New York-based not-for-profit Trout Power, conducted the field study in 2019. Genetic analysis was performed by the State University of New York at Albany.

“The uniqueness of the sampled trout appears to be even more pure or distinct than other unique strains identified in the Adirondacks,” said Paul Miller, a local member of Trout Unlimited and Trout Power, and a board member of Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust. “This is significant, and means we should do all we can to avoid jeopardizing this genetically unique strain of brook trout. Protecting their habitat is the most important and effective means of ensuring their survival.”

The “Heart of Tug Hill” is comprised of about 170,000 acres of remote forest at the center of the Tug Hill region.

It includes parts of the towns of Redfield (Oswego County), Worth (Jefferson County), and Montague, Martinsburg, West Turin and Osceola (all four in Lewis County).

“These wild lands give rise to major river systems that provide world-class fishing opportunities and drinking water, including the Salmon River, Deer River, the Sandy Creeks and East and West Branches of Fish Creek,” said Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust Executive Director Linda Garrett. Garrett also noted that a new study by The Nature Conservancy identifies portions of the Tug Hill core forest as “Last Chance Ecosystems” – relatively unspoiled lands that if conserved will provide habitats important to wildlife species diversity.

Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust protects wild lands, forest and farms throughout the Tug Hill region that spans over 2,000 square miles from Watertown and Fort Drum in the north, to Oneida Lake on the south, between the Adirondacks and Lake Ontario. The Land Trust uses conservation easements to protect over 20,000 acres on more than 100 sites. The Heart of Tug Hill represents the organization’s highest priority for conservation.

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