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Wild Trout Management Areas (WTMAs)

Background  |  Research  a map of Connecticut's wild trout management areas There are 28 WTMAs in Connecticut, divided into one of three classes (1, 2, or 3). Each class has its own specific regulations and management strategy.

Class 1 (9 waters) are “natural” WTMAs. A section of river or stream with adequate natural reproduction to support year-round fishing, provided there was no harvest. There is no stocking of hatchery fish into these waters. The regulations on these waters were to protect the population structure by prohibiting harvest, requiring the use of a single barbless hook, and limiting gear to be artificial only (no bait). Fishing is allowed year round.

Class 2 (2 waters) are “enhanced” WTMAs. A section of river or stream with some natural reproduction and significant unused habitat. These streams do not have enough natural reproduction to support fishing pressure, however, through the stocking of juvenile brown trout (fry) and some adult-size fish, angling is supported. Regulations have a reduced creel (2 fish) and a minimum size of 12 inches. There are no gear restrictions. Fishing is allowed from Opening Day (second Saturday in April) until the last day of February.

Class 3 (17 waters) are “enhanced” WTMAs. A section of river or stream with little natural reproduction and significant unused habitat. These streams do not have enough natural reproduction to support fishing pressure, however, through the stocking of juvenile brown trout (fry) and moderate amounts of adult-size fish, angling is supported. Regulations have a standard daily limit (5 fish) and a minimum size of 9 inches. There are no gear restrictions. Fishing is allowed from Opening Day (second Saturday in April) until the last day of February. For more on this management strategy, read "Filling a Niche" in Connecticut Wildlife Magazine.

 brown trout fry

Background

The majority of large and mid-sized streams in Connecticut are stocked with 9-12 inch hatchery-raised brook, brown, tiger and rainbow trout to enhance fishing where natural reproduction is absent and/or inadequate or to simply provide a seasonal fishery. However, many small, cold perennial streams support significant populations of wild trout. In selected waters where conditions are adequate for trout growth and survival, but for unknown reasons, natural reproduction is absent or extremely limited, the Fisheries Division stocks brown trout fry (recently hatched fish) to create a recreational fishing opportunity.  Brook trout and brown trout are the only Connecticut trout that have the ability to sustain populations by spawning on their own in a brook or stream, earning the label of “wild”. Wild brook trout and brown trout populations are important renewable resources that add quality and diversity to Connecticut fisheries. Wild trout are esteemed because of their excellent physical appearance, bright coloration, and culinary superiority. Wild trout also have high intrinsic value because their life history requirement of cold clean water make them an indicator of of healthy stream ecosystems. Special recreational management of wild trout was implemented as part of the 1999 publication, “A Trout Management Plan for Connecticut’s Rivers and Streams”. Based on extensive analysis of fish population data collected as part of a statewide stream survey project (1988-1995), it was determined some rivers and streams had moderate - robust populations and the capacity to support fishing for non-stocked fish (wild). At the same time, angler interest and desire to catch truly wild fish as an alternative to fishing for hatchery-raised fish was increasing. However, it was thought many of these wild populations would not support increased harvest.

Research

In the decades following the stream survey project, fish biologists have continued to monitor standard index sites where wild trout have been documented. The trend for wild trout populations (especially brook trout) at many of these long-term sample sites is a decrease in abundance and range. Declines have likely resulted from a combination of floods, droughts, warm water temperatures, and in some streams, possibly increased angling or competition with brown trout. The data from this monitoring is important for the following:

  • Detect long-term trends in abundance and occurrence of wild trout;
  • Determine what waters should not be stocked with hatchery trout to avoid competition and genetic-integration with wild trout;
  • Identify waters with robust wild trout populations that could support fishing (without stocking).

The Fisheries Division will occasionally transplant wild brook trout from suitable donor streams into vacant coldwater habitat where natural populations were apparently extirpated and suitable habitat was never re-colonized. Transplanting wild brook trout, versus stocking domestic brook trout, is more effective at restoring a population that has been lost to a catastrophic event such as drought or toxic event.

Other publications related to wild trout research in Connecticut:

Genetic mixing between stocked trout and wild trout

Wild brook trout 30 years after the Stream Survey ProjectReport  |  Presentation

Screening for Gill Lice on wild brook trout 

wild brook trout in hand

 

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Please contact the Fisheries Division with any questions. 

Phone: 860-424-FISH (3474)
E-mail: deep.inland.fisheries@ct.gov

Content last updated December 2020