Guest Post!: Jon Ursillo on Protecting Rhode Island’s Brook Trout

If any of you have been here since the blog’s start, you will remember “RI Brook Trout” has been here from the start as well. He often referenced an organization, PRIBT, dedicated to protecting New England’s only native trout. I looked into it, and recently asked him to write a guest post regarding the organization, and effort as a whole. Please take a few moments to read this excellent post, and help out the organization in the way that Jon suggests! Thanks to Jon for writing this!
Hi all,

I am Jon Ursillo, a regular reader of the blog since its beginnings and “RI Brook Trout” on Blogger.  Troy has reached out to me to do a guest post regarding an organization I belong to called “Protect Rhode Island Brook Trout.” 

Protect RI Brook Trout is an organization that was started back in 2013 when a few members of TU Chapter 225 grew frustrated with the chapter’s inaction regarding the decline of brook trout throughout the state of Rhode Island, and most notably, in the Wood River.  The chapter also participated in the float stocking of the Upper River, a section of river that still holds native brook trout.  

The practice of stocking hatchery fish on top of wild brook trout, or any wild trout for that matter, has been proven to be detrimental to wild brook trout populations by numerous studies across the country.  Perhaps the best example of that negative effect of stocking on wild trout is exemplified by Montana’s decision to abandon its stocking over wild trout in the 1970s, and the subsequent explosion in wild trout populations.  As a result, the PRIBT founders realized that they had to abandon their TU chapter and start an organization of their own if they hoped to change the mismanagement of the upper Wood River by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.  

Soon after starting PRIBT, the founders proposed an experimental wild brook trout refuge for the upper Wood River and its tributaries to the RI DEM.  You can access the webpage with a link to the proposal here: .  The proposed refuge calls for the cessation of stocking of the upper Wood River watershed and would create catch and release regulations with single barbless hooks.  

This would be a stark change to current management of the river, which allows for the stocking of both the upper Wood River and numerous tributaries and maintains only one small catch and release area on a tributary of the upper Wood.  This change is necessary, however, if the state hopes to stop and reverse the decline of wild brook trout in the upper Wood River Watershed.  Furthermore, this change in management is not unreasonable as many other states have created wild trout management areas with similar regulations, such as Rhode Island’s neighbor, Connecticut.

A RI brook trout in its fall dress
Up until this point, we have advocated for the refuge to the DEM using reasoned argument and science, which suggests that the state’s current management of the river is haphazard and harmful to the river’s wild brook trout.  The DEM, however, is content to deflect our concerns and continue to manage the river based upon their perceived angler demand for stocked trout, and as a result, the brook trout are suffering.  We continue to explore new avenues to advocate for our proposal and tell the story of the decline of wild brook trout in Rhode Island through our Facebook page and website .  We hope that you will explore these sites. 

Also, please join the over 800 individuals who have liked the Facebook page and shown their support for our efforts.  This will help the DEM understand how many people are interested in our efforts.  Lastly, we ask you to email the director of the RI DEM, Janet Coit, at ja********@de*.gov to inform her of your support for our proposed refuge.  And if you are a resident of RI reading this blog, we encourage you to contact your local state representative and ask them to support PRIBT’s proposed wild brook trout refuge.  Make your government work for you.  

By reaching out to the director and/or state representatives, you are standing up for one of the last strongholds of brook trout left in Little Rhody and telling the DEM that there are anglers out there who want to protect wild brook trout and that trout stocking is not the only way to obtain licence sales.  This is the only way that we will be able to change the current management of the upper Wood River.  

I hope that you will follow and track our efforts on the Facebook page, and we welcome comments on the page if you have questions regarding our cause or wish to provide input about how we can better advocate for our proposed refuge.  I encourage all of you to help protect brook trout in your local communities by reaching out to state fish and wildlife personnel regarding the cessation of stocking over wild brook trout populations in your local rivers and streams and potential dam removals or stream restoration projects.  If we all work together, we can help stop the decline of this extraordinarily beautiful fish across the eastern part of the country.  Do your part.  Practice catch and release.  Use barbless hooks.  Avoid brook trout streams during and after the spawn.  All of these things will help.  I appreciate your time and hope that you will show your support for Rhode Island’s brook trout by helping our cause.
Another gorgeous colored up RI native


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9 thoughts on “Guest Post!: Jon Ursillo on Protecting Rhode Island’s Brook Trout

  1. Excellent! Staying off of the redds during the spawn is a big one that needs to be stressed. There's no way that people will stop fishing for them during the spawn completely (guiltily, I do because I love getting to see the colors!), but fisherman need to stay off the redds. Great write up, I'll check the FB page and such tonight!


    1. Thank you for doing it! I may actually be on your Wood River next month too. Coming to Rhode Island for a couple days… Maybe I'll see some of those brookies myself!


    2. You may Troy. I heard the brookies are in the mainstem of the wood right now because the tributaries are so low. Chances are there will be a lot of stockers though because they are postponing fall stocking till around that time because of low water. I wish it was postponed indefinitely.

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