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Ohio's Native Brook Trout Project

Interview by Joe Cornwall

Audio Editing and Production by Jim Stuard

"There is no place in nature for extinction." - Licretius


Brook trout colonized Ohio's Lake Erie tributary streams following the retreat of the Wisconsin glacier some 10,000 years ago.  100 years ago their range was limited to 2 Ohio streams. 20 years ago they were thought to be completely lost to history. Today there are 10 streams supporting self-sustaining populations of Ohio native-strain brook trout.  Fly Fish Ohio talks with the ODW folks who are currently charged with the responsibility of bringing this beautiful fish back from the edge of extirpation and the genetic strain from the edge of extinction. Even Don Quixote never tilted at such large windmills... and won!



Phil Hillman—Ohio Division of Wildlife 

Phil Hillman is the District Three Fish (Northeast Ohio) Management Supervisor for the Ohio Division of Wildlife.  He received a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Zoology from Indiana University in 1977.  Phil also received a Master’s of Science degree in Fisheries and Wildlife from the University of Missouri in 1982.  Phil started working for the Division of Wildlife in 1980 as a Fisheries Research Biologist.  One of Phil’s primary projects as a research biologist was to evaluate Ohio’s Lake Erie salmonid (salmon and trout) program.  Phil officially became the district fish management supervisor in 1985.  By 1988, the Division of Wildlife totally changed the scope of the program from a salmon-based to a steelhead trout-based program.  During the late 1980’s, Phil worked with Kevin Kayle, District Three Fisheries Biologist (and now the Fairport Fish Research Unit Supervisor), to refine Ohio’s steelhead trout program by switching from using a domestic rainbow trout strain (London, Ohio) to entirely focusing on a wild steelhead trout strain (Little Manistee River, Michigan) that had been evolving in the Great Lakes since the early 1880’s.  Ohio was the first of the Great Lakes states to narrow their salmonid program to featuring only steelhead trout and the fishery is now recognized as being of world class caliber.  Phil is an avid angler, who has fished for Great Lakes salmon and trout for 37 years, using noodle, fly, and center-pin gear. 

Also, during the mid-1980’s Phil and Kevin Kayle were made aware of two Ohio native brook trout populations in Geauga County.  A project was soon established to expand the range of Ohio’s native brook trout.  This project included the dedicated efforts of not only Kevin Kayle, but also fisheries biologists Vince LaConte, and Andy Burt.  By the completion of this project in 2007, a total of nine new streams in northeast Ohio now support reproducing populations of our native brook trout.  Curt Wagner is the District Three Fisheries Biologist who heads our rivers and streams efforts and will continue future management/research efforts dealing with Ohio’s native brook trout.   


Curtis P. Wagner—Ohio Division of Wildlife 


Hired in March 2008, Curt Wagner is a Fisheries Biologist with the Ohio Division of Wildlife in the District Three (Northeast Ohio) office.  Curt covers inland fisheries management issues in nineteen northeast counties.  Curt graduated from the Pennsylvania State University with a B.S. in wildlife and fisheries and a minor in forestry.  He then spend time at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign evaluating differences in growth, survival and other behaviors among genetically distinct stocks of muskellunge for his M.S. thesis.  Curt is currently writing his doctoral dissertation, which focuses on first-year growth and energy allocation of largemouth bass from varying latitudes.  Wagner’s research is carried out in conjunction with the Illinois Natural History Survey under the direction of Dr. David H. Wahl.


Among Curt’s primary responsibilities with the Ohio Division of Wildlife in District Three are to monitor stream fish populations and represent the Ohio Division of Wildlife on numerous watershed and stream conservation organizations.  Included in this broad array of stream responsibilities is involvement with the Brook Trout Advisory Committee and the ongoing conservation and possible expansion of the native brook trout in Ohio.  Curt has past experience monitoring native and naturally reproducing brook trout populations in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny National Forest region while working with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.


Curt enjoys spending time with his family and is just beginning to introduce his 2 year old daughter to the joys of fishing.  Smallmouth bass fishing in many of northeast Ohio’s rivers and streams is one of Curt’s favorite outdoor pursuits.


Download MP3 Program   



The Fly Fish Ohio team would like to thank Brian Lovely and his band the Faux Frenchmen for use of their music on the intro and exit of this production. 

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