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South's only native trout fighting an upstream battle
Tennessee Aquarium & others work on conservation campaign

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (Jan. 21, 2005) – Swimming against a rushing current is no big deal for a trout. But when you’re the South’s only native trout, it’s an upstream battle fraught with environmental dangers and competition from invasive, non-native trout species.

The Tennessee Aquarium, along with the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Trout Unlimited, the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency and other wildlife agencies from Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia have come together to protect and restore the Southern Appalachian brook trout throughout its native range.

As a result of their “Adopt a Brookie” campaign, Trout Unlimited presented a check for $500 to the Aquarium Thursday to encourage the service, education and display of one of our natural treasures, the Appalachian Brook Trout.

“Over the last century changes in land use patterns, pollution and the introduction of exotic species have severely limited the habitat of this unique and beautiful fish,” said Michelle Wall, president of the Appalachian chapter of Trout Unlimited. “Acid rain continues to lower the pH of high mountain streams, further limiting the areas in which these fish can thrive. We want to partner with the Aquarium to contribute to their development of a Southern Appalachian brook trout display. This will bring about a keener awareness to the general public of the Southern brook trout’s plight.”

While trout have always made their home in the rushing current of the Mountain Stream exhibit in the Cove Forest at the Aquarium, the exhibit recently added the rarely exhibited type of trout, affectionately known as “brookies.”

“Southern Appalachian brook trout may look similar to the larger northern brook trout, Salvelinus fontinalis, at least in their general appearance, but are genetically quite different,” said Matt Hamilton, senior aquarist at the Aquarium. “In fact, the differences between the northern brookies and the Southern Appalachian brookies are significant enough that many ichthyologists now consider the Southern Appalachian fish to be a subspecies.”

Southern Appalachian brook trout were once abundant throughout the southern portion of the Appalachian Mountains, specifically from Virginia to Georgia, explained Rob Mottice, coordinator of fish culture and acquisition at the Aquarium. However, the habitat of this fish decreased due to the heavy logging conducted in the late 1800s through the early 1900s.

“The introduction of non-native trout including rainbow, brown and northern brook and declining water quality also have caused the numbers of Southern Appalachian brook trout to decline,” he said. “The fish are now limited to the cool, well-oxygenated waters of headwater streams above 3,500 feet in elevation.”

All the images in the thumbnails below are available to download for use with articles about the Tennessee Aquarium only. Digital images are suitable for web use (72 dpi), newspaper reproduction(170 dpi), or for magazine and book use (300 dpi). Click on thumbnail to download a high-res image, suitable for print.

For additional Aquarium images:

Tennessee Aquarium
Brook Trout

Tennessee Aquarium
Brook Trout


The Tennessee Aquarium inspires wonder and appreciation for the natural world. Admission is $14 per adult and $7.50 per child, ages 3-12. Each ticket purchased helps support Aquarium conservation programs. The IMAX® 3D Theater is next door to the Aquarium. Ticket prices are $7.75 per adult and $5.25 per child. Aquarium/IMAX combo tickets are $18 for adults and $10.50 for children. Advance tickets may be purchased online at or by phone at 1-800-262-0695. The Aquarium, located on the banks of the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, is a non-profit organization. Open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Aquarium and IMAX are accessible to people with disabilities. Members enjoy unlimited visits and other benefits. Call 267-FISH to join.
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Trout Unlimited, a non-profit organization, is the nation’s largest cold water conservation organization. Its mission is to conserve, protect and restore trout and salmon, as well as the streams and rivers that support these natural resource treasures. To contribute to the “Adopt a Brookie” campaign, contact Michelle Wall at 423-265-0306.

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