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One of the state's most revered places to fish brown trout runs through Oakland County, namely the Paint Creek. The coldwater stream is a haven for anglers who seek out the spotted fish, accented with a square tail and a golden belly. Since the 1800s, the brown trout has been fished in Michigan, yet many an angler may be surprised to know that it first arrived by boat from Germany, and isn't a native species at all.
Released into the Pere Marquette River in 1884, the brown trout was one of many species stocked by the Michigan Fish Commission in response to depleted fish populations due to excessive harvest for commercial purposes, polluted waters from industrialization, and massive destruction of land and water habitat as the logging industry cleared debris from rivers to aid in the transport of fresh-cut logs to sawmills.
By 1900, the state operated six fish hatcheries, including Oakland County's Drayton Plains hatchery, which was located on the site of today's Drayton Plains Nature Center near Waterford. Implementing basic techniques and small-scale operations, when compared to current standards, early hatcheries cultured a variety of species including brown trout, brook trout, rainbow trout, walleye, lake whitefish, and largemouth and smallmouth bass.
Early settlers who sought diversified species for food and recreation, took fish indigenous to some Michigan waters, and planted them in other lakes and streams, where the particular species was previously absent. Populations of walleye, brook trout, and largemouth and smallmouth bass were spread this way. Other species, such as Atlantic and Chinook salmon, common carp and rainbow smelt were imported from out of state, and stocked through 1920, according to a 2004 article published by Gary Whelan, current program manager for the fisheries division of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR).
"There's a very long history of brown trout management, which relies heavily upon (fish) stocking," said Kevin Kapuscinski, assistant professor and co-director of the aquatic research lab at Lake Superior State University. "The common carp has been here – also imported intentionally in the late 1800s – so both species have been here for a long time. They've been around such a long time that a lot of people may not think of them as non-native, but they are. It's more of a value system. We look at the carp as a destructive invasive species, and most people don't view brown trout that way, but they were both brought here intentionally. Value systems change through time, and most of fisheries management is based on these value systems." ...continued on page 2