Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Berrien County (T8S, R17W, Sections 1, 2, and 3)
Cass County (T8S, R17W, Sections 5, 6, 7, and 8)
(T7S, R16W, Sections 28 and 33)
Surveyed September 21, 1989
James L. Dexter, Jr.
Brandywine Creek is a top quality coldwater trout stream located in southwestern
Cass County and southeastern Berrien County. It is a small second order
stream that flows in a westerly direction through the city limits of Niles,
Michigan, before it empties into the St. Joseph River.
Land use near the headwaters in Cass County are mostly agricultural with
hog farming being the primary activity. The lower end of the creek is
surrounded mostly by small woodlots and the suburbs of Niles. Most of
the creek in Berrien County is underlaid with Oshtemo loamy sands, which
are well drained. Further upstream the soil is composed of Cohoctah loamy
sands, which are poorly drained.
Brandywine Creek is estimated to be 8.2 miles long. Stream widths average
14 feet, with an average depth of 2 feet. Many areas in the upper sections
of the creek are very deep. Cover for trout throughout the creek is very
good. Undercut banks, watercress, and deep runs characterize the upper
third. Logs, pools, and overhanging vegetation are very common throughout
the remainder of the creek. The bottom composition in the lower end is
about 50% cobble and gravel, and 50% sand and silt. The creek falls about
110 feet from its headwaters to its confluence. The rest of the creek
is characterized primarily by sand and some silt. No chemical characteristics
of the water have been studied.
Limited information about the aquatic insect community is known. The
majority of aquatic insect species identified are broadly classified as
intolerant, meaning they can succumb easily to polluted water. Given this,
the water quality must be good. Nine families of insects have been identified,
including three species of stoneflies, two species of mayflies, and three
species of caddisflies. Freshwater shrimp are very abundant, especially
in the watercress, and are excellent food for trout.
There is no state-owned land along the banks of Brandywine Creek. However,
access is very good. Private enterprises own a good portion of the lower
river but allow free access. Upper areas are also easily accessed from
bridge crossings. We understand that landowner permission is not hard
Brandywine Creek has been actively managed by the Fisheries Division
for trout since at least 1933. Brook trout were planted almost every year
from 1933 through 1944. No fish were stocked between 1945 and 1970. In
1971, brown trout stockings started and they continue today. Brown trout
must have been stocked previously, however. In 1957, over 150 brown trout
between 8 and 27 inches were removed by electroshocking prior to stream
dredging by the county. The creek has always been popular among trout
anglers. In fact, many anglers claim that fishing for browns was better
before the Division started stocking brown trout.
The trout fishery of today appears to be better than those documented
in previous surveys. The fish community is very typical of high quality
coldwater streams, dominated by brown trout, sculpin, and white sucker
(Table 1). Catch per effort was very high (126.4 per hour) for trout in
September 1989 (collection made with 240-volt DC stream shocker and two
probes). This compares to 58.7 per hour in 1982 (110-volt DC). Over 31%
of the trout sampled in 1989 were legal size; the largest being 16 inches
(Figure 1). Carp and central mudminnow
were not collected in 1989 but were collected in previous surveys.
High levels of natural reproduction were evident at the lower sampling
station, B-1 (T8S, R17W, Section 2) Natural recruitment of 3-4 inch brown
trout appeared to be quite sufficient to sustain this section of the creek
with wild trout (Figure 1). This area
had large amounts of spawning habitat and nursery habitat available. The
majority of the trout at Station B-1 appeared to be wild, as they were
slightly different in color than brown trout collected at the upper two
stations. It does not appear that any wild trout were found in the upper
The trout population of Brandywine Creek is very good. Water quality
and fish health appear excellent. Such a high quality resource is quite
rare in southwestern Michigan. Compared to streams of similar size and
quality in Region III, Brandywine Creek rates very high. Fisheries Division's
efforts to protect valuable habitat in the lower reaches have been commendable.
The foresight of Fisheries personnel saved at least 600 feet of prime
spawning and rearing habitat for trout in 1981. That year the bridge on
3rd Street (Station B-1) washed out, and plans were submitted to fill
in the old channel and straighten out the creek. If that would have occurred,
wild brown trout probably would not be present now. Prior to 1982 no wild
trout were found in fisheries surveys.
Brandywine Creek should continue to be managed as a top quality coldwater
trout stream. It would be unlikely for the Division to produce a higher
quality fishery than what is available today. No stocking should be made
downstream of 15th Street, as these fish would impact on the wild population
present in the lower reaches. Year-round habitat for trout is very good
throughout all reaches of the creek. However, there is a lack of spawning
habitat, and possibly nursery habitat, in the upper areas. The two present
stocking sites and stocking rates should be maintained.
No obvious sources of erosion were evident in this survey. Sand and silt
seems to be the dominant material of the streambed in the middle and upper
sections of the creek. Because of this, it is not practical to suggest
habitat manipulation to increase natural reproduction.
Another potential obstacle to improving the trout fishery may be the
fall runs of anadromous salmonids that will ascend Brandywine Creek after
the Niles Dam ladder is completed. Some chinook salmon and steelhead were
seen in the creek in 1989 after the trap and transfer operation at Berrien
Springs. Research has shown that rainbow trout may compete with brown
trout (Ziegler 1988).
Report completed: February, 1990.
Ziegler, R. L. 1988. Stream resource utilization of sympatric and allopatric
juvenile brown (Salmo trutta) and steelhead trout (Salmo gairdneri).
Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Research Report 1957,
Table 1.-Species, relative abundance, and length of fishes collected
by backpack electrofishing at three stations on Brandywine Creek, September
Last Update: 08/06/02