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Climate Change May Cost Fishermen More Time, Money in Search of Brook Trout

Climate change will increase the money and time spent by anglers seeking to catch brook trout in the eastern United States, according to Penn State University research.

It will have a major economic impact on those states most affected by higher temperatures.

Travel times and distances will increase for brook trout fishing due to climate change because brook trout need streams and rivers with cold water to survive, said Dr. Tyrell DeWeber, who did his doctoral work at Penn State.

"Increases in air and river water temperatures predicted by climate change will result in fewer streams that are cold enough to support brook trout," DeWeber, now a postdoctoral research scholar at Oregon State University, said.

"And as brook trout are lost, people will have to drive farther to catch them. In southern regions where losses of brook trout are expected to be greatest, people may have to drive up to 450 miles farther to find a stream where they can fish for brook trout," he added.

The research, conducted by DeWeber and Tyler Wagner, a Penn State adjunct professor of fisheries ecology, was recently published in Fisheries magazine.

Trout fishing means big money for the states that use fishing license fees to pay for conservation measures, anglers who go to restaurants, motels and other venues during their trips and those businesses that benefit.

The $3.6 billion spent by 7.2 million trout anglers in 2011 had an overall estimated economic impact of $8.6 billion, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's "Trout fishing in 2011: a demographic description and economic analysis."

The total economic impact associated with trout angler expenditures is estimated to support over 60,800 jobs and over $2.6 billion in salaries, wages and business earnings, the report stated. Associated federal taxes are estimated to be over $610 million and state and local tax revenues of over $500 million.

"The most suitable habitat for brook trout has cold water with limited human land use and coarse sediments. As water temperature increases in response to climate change, a stream becomes less suitable or even entirely unsuitable for brook trout. As streams are lost, people will have to drive farther to catch brook trout," DeWeber said.

"Individual anglers who target brook trout would certainly have to pay a lot more for gas to drive from a southern city such as Cleveland, Tennessee, to a cold stream in the future. While that might sound like they would spend more money, it seems unlikely that people will drive even 300 miles to fish for brook trout very often, even if they are such a beautiful and special fish," he explained.

Weather has a great impact on trout fishing, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Bob Smerbeck.

"Water temperatures between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal for catching trout," Smerbeck said. "Brook trout prefer cooler waters than rainbow and brown trout, and the ideal temperature for catching Brook trout will be in the upper 50s. When water temperatures rise above 65 F, it will stress the brook trout and cause them to seek cooler waters from seeps and side streams."

Falling pressures and warmer weather ahead of a storm will cause trout to become active feeders, Smerbeck said.

"Once precipitation has commenced, runoff will wash bait into the stream so fishing will continue to be good. Too much precipitation can cause the stream to flood which will slow down the bite," Smerbeck said. "Rising pressures and cooling temperatures in the wake of a storm or front cause the bite to lessen as fish seem to hunker down. Rising pressures and falling temperatures in the wake of an arctic blast can bring the slowest bite."