There is much more to wild native brook trout than table fare. They are a sign of a healthy aquatic ecosystem, and the most iconic fish species in the East. Along with moose and loons, brook trout are a symbol of what makes northern New England unique. In the case of Vermont, they are also the official State Cold Water Fish.
Wild native brook trout face many threats including development, pollution, warming water, floods, droughts, invasive fish, stocking, and angler exploitation. If they are to persist in a rapidly changing world, we will need to do everything we can to help them. This means changing how we view wild native brook trout, and placing a higher value on their presence in the wild than in a frying pan.
For decades, Vermont has lagged notably behind all other states in brook trout native range in regard to protection from angler exploitation. At 12 fish, Vermont’s daily harvest limit on brook trout in rivers and streams is 33 percent higher than any other state, more than twice that of 15 of 22 states, and double that of three other states. While this regulation has stood unchanged for over 60 years, the limit on nonnative rainbow trout and brown trout, and what are mostly stocked trout, including brook trout, in lakes and ponds has been reduced to just six fish.
The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board is currently reviewing a proposal from the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department to reduce the daily limit on brook trout in rivers and streams from 12 to eight fish. While a step in the right direction, this would still leave Vermont tied with Massachusetts and Georgia for the highest daily limit in their native range, and three fish, or 38 percent higher, than New Hampshire and Maine, the two states most similar to Vermont ecologically and socially.
To work this hard and still end up worst-in-class seems wasteful and shortsighted. Rather than making up some of the difference between Vermont and the other states within the native range, it would be prudent to take this opportunity to catch up to the pack and remove the stigma of having the highest daily limit on wild native brook trout in the nation once and for all.