Despite a poor smelt-spawning season in Quincy’s Town Brook, engineers say the relocation of the waterway has been successful for the regional fish.
“It’s tough to draw conclusions this early, but I’m encouraged,” said Brad Chase, with the Division of Marine Fisheries.
Smelt eggs were found where they were supposed to be, ripple pools designed to attract fish were working, and water velocity was adequate, Chase said
The state will monitor the brook for two more seasons before drawing final conclusions, but so far the relocation seems to have benefited the local ecology.
“It’s a marked improvement over what was there,” Chase said “… If it brings back lots of fish, it will be hard to say, but it’s a net improvement that will build over time.”
Locals had been concerned about the smelt spawning after seeing dwindled numbers this year.
However according to Chase, poor spawning happened region-wide. Though spawning typically begins the first week of March, it also didn’t start until the third week this year.
The season still finished around May 20.
Even with low numbers and shortened timeframe, eggs were found 200 feet in to the underground portion of the brook, and fish seemed to be spawning further up.
“Fish went to a place they couldn’t go before, which is further upstream. There are little things that are encouraging,” Chase said.
The new brook, relocated to the outskirts of Quincy Center, has been open since March, after engineers completed the $10.1-million brook relocation.
Pocket parks around day-lit portions of the brook are still being constructed and won’t be finished until September.
While the primary reason for relocating the brook was to bring the habitat outside the area of the downtown redevelopment, Chase said upgrading the smelt spawning grounds is key for the ecological success of an area.
“They provide food for so many predators - fish, birds, mammals, everything feeds on them. They are a prey species important for the ecology in the area,” Chase said.
Seasonal recreational fishers from Marina Bay down to Hingham also rely on the fish, Chase said.
As smelt mature at age 1 or 2, the smelt hatched this year will take some time before returning.
Even now, the progress is exciting, Chase said, as there have been few attempts to create rainbow smelt spawning habitats.
“This is a unique opportunity…and they were able to match the conditions we were targeting,” he said.