Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design


Wildlife and Fisheries Resources

Committee Chair

Kyle J. Hartman.


Brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) in Appalachia frequently experience limitations in food availability. In order to determine temporal variation in consumption, successful feeding, and corresponding population patterns and growth, the feeding dynamics of a population of brook trout were monitored throughout a headwater watershed over the course of two years. The Middle Fork River brook trout experienced food limitation throughout summer and fall, however, mean consumption estimates fell below maintenance ration only during the winter seasons. Consumption estimates were significantly related to watershed position, as fish in low density, downstream reaches consistently consumed significantly more energy than fish upstream during warm months. During the summer, when fish were most energetically stressed, a significant negative relationship existed between large fish density and mean consumption estimates. Brook trout exhibited generalist feeding throughout the year and consumed a high diversity of organisms. During each season, fish observed feeding above maintenance ration consumed significantly different proportions of certain prey taxa than fish feeding below maintenance ration. Specifically, some terrestrial organisms appeared to be most important during spring, summer, and fall. The population of brook trout in the Middle Fork River watershed did not appear to be evenly distributed with respect to food resources, suggesting that the full potential of resource availability is not being exploited by the population. Alternatively, brook trout may not distribute on a food resource scale, and/or the energetic costs of movement do not equal the benefit of increased feeding. Furthermore, terrestrial organisms appear to outweigh aquatic prey in terms of prey importance to Middle Fork brook trout, implying that active riparian zone management may have consequences to central Appalachian salmonids.