Trout Streams in Winter

The goal of this project is to show avid trout fishers, teachers, and K-12 students the importance of winter stream food webs and how they can be involved in community science to contribute to stream conservation and winter ecology research.

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What is a trout stream?

Seems obvious, right? A stream with trout.

But it takes more than just flowing water to make a stream a trout stream. Trout need cold water to survive. Cooler water enables water to hold more oxygen. Forested areas along streams and rivers (known as riparian areas) provide shade and help to cool water. Such vegetated areas also help prevent erosion, filter pollutants, and provide food and shelter for fish and other aquatic organisms.  

Duluth, Minnesota, is home to 16 designated trout streams. Despite their challenges, North Shore streams have two things in their favor. First is their cool, northern, lake-moderated climate. Second is the deep-forest bank cover, which shades the streams and keeps them cool. These influences keep these streams just cool enough to support trout.

Rocky gorge of waterfall with trees along top of gorge
Gooseberry Falls, Minnesota. Image credit: M.Thoms

Project description

The goal of this project is to show avid trout fishers, teachers and K-12 students what species are capable of existing only within a narrow temperature range (called cold stenothermal species or CSS) and how they and other community scientists can be involved in their conservation and related research. Our goal is to improve scientific understanding of cold stenothermal species (CSS) and their impact on Minnesota resources, and increase community opportunities to engage in scientific research. We hope to reach at least 100 participants through our workshops, and by using teachers as a conduit to their classrooms, that initial reach should multiply. At the conclusion of each workshop, we will ask participants to complete an evaluation questionnaire and follow-up by email with individual participants to determine their interest and resource needs to participate as community volunteers.

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Why Minnesota Sea Grant?

This project supports Sea Grant's mission to enhance the practical use and conservation of coastal, marine, and Great Lakes resources in order to create a sustainable economy and environment.

What have we done lately?

This project will develop and conduct three hands-on, interactive events intended to help us build human capital and demonstrate the importance of CSS in the winter sport fishing industry and to the health of trout streams.

Our first event for members of Trout Unlimited Chapters in Minnesota and Wisconsin was held in St. Paul in February 2020. 2020-02-22 trout and invertebrate workshop flyer.pdf. Credit: Amy Schrank.

We hosted our second event on February 27, 2021. This was a streamside workshop on winter stream macroinvertebrates at Browns Creek near Stillwater, Minnesota. Workshop attendants included students in the Mounds Park Academy Science Club.

Our third event was a virtual presentation to the University of Minnesota Master Naturalist Program on February 26, 2021. The presentation was titled, “Bugs Below Zero: How citizen volunteers can improve understanding of stream food webs in the winter.”

Currently, the Bugs Below Zero team, led by Rebecca Swenson, associate professor of Agricultural Communications, has a proposal pending with the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources to continue our winter stream ecology outreach.

Participants & audience

The target audiences for this project include avid trout fishers, teachers, K-12 students, and anyone else interested in learning more about this topic.


Support for this project is provided by a grant from the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment. 

Upcoming Events

Program Staff

Blond woman with mountains in the background
Fisheries and Aquaculture Extension Educator