By Alexandra Foxon
Ecosystem Management Technology student, Fleming College
A fascinating phenomenon is taking place every year in the Township of Cavan-Monaghan. Brook trout live in cold-water lakes and rivers throughout much of eastern North America. Incredibly, our very own Baxter Creek has the right food and physical conditions for the survival of this native fish species. Water is essential for people and nature – and under perfect conditions, fish spawning may take place in the fall, sometime between October and November.
The water that flows through Baxter Creek comes from a coldwater stream originating on the Oak Ridges Moraine. That particular creek has a reach of two kilometers and a catchment area of approximately 130 hectares. The creek follows a winding path from rural areas east of the village of Millbrook, through the urban center of the village and empties into Baxter Creek, immediately downstream of the Millbrook Dam.
Brook trout spawn in the fall, usually from October to November, in shallow, gravel-bottomed streams and occasionally in lakes. The female digs and cleans a shallow nest in the gravel and covers her tiny eggs after they have been shed and fertilized. The young, after hatching, remain in the gravel absorbing the yolk sacs of their eggs. They typically emerge from the gravel in the spring when they are about 3 to 4 cm long.
The appearance of adult brook trout in fresh waters varies from place to place and with age and sex of the fish, but is usually distinct from all of its relatives. The back is green to dark brown or nearly black. The back, the almost unforked or square tail, and the large fin in the middle of the back (dorsal fin) are marked with lighter-colored, wavy lines. The sides are green to brown with pale spots and small, distinct, red spots surrounded by bluish halos. The belly can be white to yellow in females or deep orange to red in males. The front edges of the lower fins are black with white borders. Colors become more pronounced as spawning time approaches.
Brook trout eat a great variety of food, including plankton, insects, snails, clams, and fish. Food size tends to increase as the trout get larger.
The shorelines of Baxter Creek are unique and sensitive areas that require special attention. Due to their ecological, recreational, and aesthetic value, contributing to protecting the shoreline vegetation benefits you and the stream. A natural shoreline has important biological functions, including acting as a filter, reducing the amount of pollutants that enter the lake, and stabilizing soils and protecting against erosion.
It is important to know that a healthy shoreline consists of lots of native vegetation at different heights, from taller trees to smaller shrubs and plants, including plenty of dead trees and stones, as well as birds, fish and other wildlife.
Will you do your part to protect our water sources?
There are steps you can take to reduce your impact:
- Find out where your water comes from and urge others to do the same, because knowledge is power.
- Use biodegradable cleaning products, because the water that goes down your drains will eventually flow into streams and bays.
- Limit pesticide use, because they’ll eventually be carried into our freshwater supply by runoff.
If everyone contributes to protecting Baxter Creek and the life within it, this phenomenon will continue to be enjoyed for years to come.