Fulfills The Vision of Theodore Lyman III
Fulfills The Vision of Theodore Lyman III
By Steve Hurley | Fisheries Manager, Southeast District
The purchase of the Century Bog in Wareham in 2010 marked the culmination of a 140 plus year love affair between a small coldwater coastal stream and a succession of anglers, conservationists, and land stewards. Red Brook, once known as “ye gravelly stream,” flows from White Island Pond (Wareham/Plymouth) and becomes the boundary between the towns of Plymouth and Wareham before flowing into the warm estuarine waters of Buttermilk Bay in Bourne.
The saga began after the Civil War when Theodore Lyman III returned from his service as an aide-de-camp to Union General George Meade and took up the fight to restore the Commonwealth’s depleted fisheries. In 1866, he became one of the first Massachusetts Commissioners of Fisheries and set out to restore the state’s fisheries degraded by industrial development, dams, overharvest and pollution.
Samuel Tisdale, a Wareham nail manufacturer, was an avid angler and responsible for introducing smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieui) to Massachusetts in 1850. Mr. Tisdale contracted a shipment of what were then known as “Black Bass” to be brought via milk can and railroad to Flax Pond in Wareham. These bass spawned and were soon spread to numerous other ponds. While visiting Mr. Tisdale, who had offered up some of his property to establish the first state trout hatchery at Maple Springs, Theodore Lyman was introduced to the salter brook trout of Red Brook.
Salter brook trout are a variant of the brook trout that become anadromous, migrating from their fresh water homes to feed on the rich food resources, in the form of shrimp and mummichogs, in brackish and saltwater bays. In the late 1700s and early 1800s, noted anglers from the Boston area such as John Rowe (an owner of one of the Boston Tea Party ships) and statesman and orator Daniel Webster, traveled by stagecoach to partake of Cape Cod’s famous salter brook trout fishing.
In 1870, Theodore Lyman purchased his first property along Red Brook, the start of the Lyman Family’s stewardship of Red Brook and its watershed. Numerous purchases over the years continued the protection of Red Brook despite two World Wars, forest fires, hurricanes and the encroachment of summer homes, suburbia, power and gas lines and highways. In the late 1980s, increasing age and the pressures of development led the Lyman Family to contact Trout Unlimited to continue the protection of Red Brook and its coldwater fishery.
In 2001, a memorandum of agreement about future cooperative management of the property was signed by Trout Unlimited, The Trustees of Reservations, and the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and the Lyman family property became the Trustees of Reservations’ Theodore Lyman Reserve and MassWildlife’s Red Brook Wildlife Management Area. In 2006, 2008 and 2009, small dams were removed and habitat improvements were made with the help of skilled equipment operators hired by the A. D. Makepeace Company after planning and permitting shepherded by the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game, Division of Ecological Restoration, and Interfluve Inc with funding assistance from American Rivers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Corporate Wetlands Partnership and other partners.
The Century Bog Acquisition from the A. D. Makepeace Company marks the final piece of the puzzle Theodore Lyman started to assemble; protecting a river from its headwaters to the sea. The A. D. Makepeace Company was a willing and generous partner in habitat protection efforts on lower Red Brook and the sale to the Commonwealth of the bog, created by Lebaron Barker in 1900 and dubbed Century Bog in honor of the new century, will allow future habitat restoration of upper Red Brook. As part of the sales agreement, the company will continue to farm cranberries for five years while MassWildlife and its partners undertake planning and permitting for the creation of an improved passageway for river herring and aquatic habitats protective of coldwater trout habitat. Resilience to climate change will be an important design consideration that will help continue to protect the cold waters of Red Brook and allow the brook trout that attracted Theodore Lyman to flourish for future generations to cherish.
Tagging Research at Red Brook
The trout population of Red Brook continues to be closely monitored by MassWildlife biologists. A PIT (Passive-Integrated-Transponder) tagging program was started in 2007 with technical assistance from biologists from the Conte Anadromous Fisheries Research Laboratory and financial assistance from Trout Unlimited. Fixed antennas now monitor movements of tagged trout within the stream and a recent acoustic tagging study was started by biologists from UMASS-Amherst, the Conte Lab and the Maine Cooperative Research Unit. A new advocacy group, the Sea Run Brook Trout Coalition (www.searunbrookie.org), is raising funds through the sale of prints of a Red Brook trout to help restore populations of salter brook trout.
The Wild Brook Trout of Red Brook
During the 1870s and 1880s, Red Brook trout were sometimes used as brood stock for hatchery trout stocking programs. But the brook trout fishing at Red Brook declined in the years after World War I and the Lyman family sometimes stocked the brook with hatchery brook trout and even hatchery brown trout. On advice from fisheries biologists, the family stopped the stocking of brown and brook trout in the 1990s relying again on the stream’s wild brook trout. Recent genetic research indicated Red Brook and other area wild brook trout streams were different from each other and very different than the Sandwich State Fish Hatchery strain. Red Brook is now managed as a wild brook trout stream and is catch-and-release, single hook artificial lures only for its entire length.