AKRON, Ohio (AP) - Brook trout, a species thought to have disappeared from Ohio, are making a return.
The colorful native fish is being reintroduced in clear, cold-water streams with riffles, pools and gravel bottoms in Medina, Lake and especially Geauga counties in northeast Ohio.
The species was once found at only one location in Ohio: a tiny spring-fed stream in northeast Ohio.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources thinks the state's introduction program that began in 1994 is working, said aquatic biologist Andy Burt of the Division of Wildlife.
One of only two surviving Ohio streams that were home to the brook trout was lost to development. It was later acquired, rebuilt and stocked with young trout that are thriving.
"We're not stocking to create a fishery. We're stocking for conservation and to restore a species," Burt said. "It is a project that we feel is very worthwhile."
Sportsmen and environmentalists are excited about the program's success.
"We'd like to see the program continue with more streams being identified and the stocking continued," said Don Bearden of Wadsworth, a member of Trout Unlimited.
"It's been a huge success, and we hope it catches on and keeps going," said Bill Hudson, chairman of the Native Ohio Brook Trout Preservation and Restoration Advisory Committee.
"It's a natural heritage issue," Hudson said. "These fish have survived for 10,000 years, and if we can help save them, we have to. We can't just let them disappear. They are unique to our state."
Ohio stocked 40,000 fingerlings -- young trout about 2 inches long -- at 11 locations in April. The odds are that fewer than five in 100 -- it may be closer to one in 100 -- will become adults.
In mid-2004, the state will analyze the success of the trout re-introduction, but it appears that the fish may be capable of surviving at perhaps as many as five new sites, Burt said.
That includes a tributary of the Rocky River in Medina County.
In all, the state has "high hopes" for that site and four other stocking sites in Geauga County, in addition to three streams where the fish were found, Burt said.