Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Kalamazoo County (T3S, R12W, Section 31)
Van Buren County (T3S, R13W, Sections 10, 11, 13, 14-18,
20-22, 25-27, 36 and T3S, R14W, Section 13)
Surveyed August 24, September 5 and 10, 1990
James L. Dexter, Jr.
The East Branch of the Paw Paw River is one of many large tributaries
to the main stream of the Paw Paw River. A second order designated trout
stream with a water quality designation of top quality cold, the East
Branch flows in a westerly direction until it flows into Maple Lake in
the Village of Paw Paw.
Most of the East Branch flows through nearly level, very poorly drained
soils which have moderate water capacity and slow surface runoff. These
soils fall into the categories of either Houghton muck or Glendora sandy
loams. The surrounding area of the stream is mostly small wooded lots,
fallow farmland, and new residential home sites. Land around the East
Branch is becoming very popular for new homes.
Estimated to be 8.4 miles long, the East Branch has two main sources.
Little Paw Paw Lake in Kalamazoo County and Mattawan Creek (first order)
in the Village of Mattawan. This small creek starts in a swampy area just
to the southeast of the Village. Both the creek and the East Branch pick
up considerable amounts of ground water. Total fall for both of the streams
is about 150 feet from the sources to the confluence at Maple Lake. Mattawan
Creek averages 7 feet wide and 6 inches deep. Habitat includes pools,
logs, riffles, and watercress, all common to the upper third of the creek.
The lower two-thirds has been dredged.
The East Branch ranges from 11 to 24 feet wide, averaging 16.8 feet wide,
with an average depth of 1.3 feet. Discharge measurements made during
various seasons in the 1960s showed that flows ranged from 2&endash;8
cfs in the upper reaches to 15&endash;30 cfs in the lower reaches before
entering Maple Lake. Habitat is good, with overhanging brush, undercut
banks, pools, riffles, and logs all being common throughout many sections
of the river. Gravel and rock occur throughout the river bottom, but average
36% and 5% of the available substrate, respectively. Sand predominates
(47%), silt accounts for 10% of the substrate, and some traces of clay
occur in the lower reaches. Comparing these estimates of bottom substrate
composition to those estimated in a 1967 survey, it appears that up to
1/2 of the gravel substrate has been buried by an increase in sand bedload.
No large known sources of sand input are known to exist.
No land is owned by the State along the banks of the East Branch. Some
bridge locations where access is possible are posted "no trespassing",
but landowners do allow access to anglers upon request. Two small dams
exist in the middle reaches of the East Branch and there is another dam
at the lower end. Development in the watershed is limited to mostly residential
home sites, and these are not excessive at this time.
The East Branch has been managed for trout since at least 1934 when brook
trout were planted. No trout stocking took place in 1965&endash;1968 and
1970. For most years between 1939 and 1965, combinations of brook, brown,
and rainbow trout were stocked. Since 1971, only brown trout have been
Anglers have been attracted to the East Branch for decades. Records from
the 1950s indicate intense pressure, primarily by bank anglers. Trout
as large as 20 inches have been captured during surveys, and anglers have
reported brown trout as large as 27.5 inches (7 pounds, in 1985). Carryover
of stocked trout has always been good, and natural reproduction has been
evident since surveys began.
In 1990, the East Branch was surveyed with a 240-Volt DC shocker unit
(two probes and output of 4 amps). The fish community was found to be
similar to that of 30 years ago (Table 1). Brown trout are the only pursued
gamefish in the East Branch. Mottled sculpins, creek chubs, white suckers,
and hornyhead chubs are all more numerous than trout, but not to the extent
of overabundance. In Mattawan Creek, which was surveyed with a backpack
shocker, only brook trout and modest numbers of four other species were
found (Table 2).
During the 1990 survey, brown trout were found at 4 of 6 locations on
the East Branch. Seventy-nine percent of these trout were 8 inches or
longer. No trout were found at the upper two stations, which are strongly
influenced by Little Paw Paw Lake. Water temperatures in this area are
most likely too warm to support trout, as historically these locales have
not produced them.
Wild brown trout were found at each of the four stations. These were
determined to be wild based on size (young-of-the-year at 2 to 3 inches)
and fin characteristics. Hatchery browns are easily distinguished by eroded
fins, or regenerated crooked fins. Of the brook trout captured in Mattawan
Creek, all were wild fish, with most of these being young-of- the-year.
No records exist of stocking this creek. Brook trout stocked in the East
Branch during the 1930s, '40s and '50s may have traveled up this small
tributary and became established.
Growth rates of brown trout were very good, with age groups I&endash;III
all growing well above the State average rate for this species. Age II
brown trout averaged 11.7 inches, while the one age III trout was 15.4
inches. Brook trout from Mattawan Creek were also growing above the State
average, averaging 6.4 " at age II. Of four largemouth bass captured in
the East Branch (ages II&endash;III), all were growing well below State
average rates (lake averages), attesting to the hostile environment to
warmwater species growth.
When comparing the results of this survey on the East Branch with past
surveys (1962, 1966, and 1975), a very interesting history is revealed.
Catch per unit effort for brown trout has declined after each sampling
period. Catch per hour of electrofishing was highest in 1962 (59.5), followed
by 1966 (29.5) and 1975 (19.5), and lowest in 1990 (13.7). What is interesting
here is that no brown trout were stocked from 1958 through 1967. Survey
results from 1962 and 1967 represent collections of all naturally reproduced
brown trout. Legal size browns were stocked at an average rate of 1,150
per year between 1947 and 1957. These were stocked in conjunction with
an average of 2,300 legal size brook trout and 800 legal size rainbow
trout. Surveys during the 1960s took only one 6&endash;inch brook trout,
no rainbow trout, and many brown trout.
Bachman (1982) found that when hatchery trout were stocked into a wild
population, many agonistic encounters took place between the two. Most
often, larger hatchery trout chased smaller wild trout out of their territories.
When these hatchery trout encountered larger wild trout, they would not
chase the wild trout out, but they did cause severe stress to the wild
Based on information collected on the East Branch over the past 30 years
and related research, it seems highly likely that the present stocking
schedule is severely impacting the potential to create an even better
wild trout fishery. Currently, more than 3,000 yearling brown trout are
stocked per year.
The East Branch and Mattawan Creek should continue to be managed as top
quality coldwater designated trout streams. Even though present survey
results of the East Branch do not indicate high recruitment rates of brown
trout, I have to believe that those rates would soar upon termination
of all stocking in the system. Holdover of trout through the winter is
very good, and all surveys have indicated the ability of the stream to
produce large trout. I recommend that stocking be terminated for a 4&endash;year
period (1992&endash;1995) and a full survey, structured after the 1990
field work, be completed during the summer of 1995. A spot check survey
should be conducted in 1993 to monitor progress.
The creation of a wild trout fishery will take at least 3 years to fully
materialize after stocking has ceased. The goal will be to create a larger
population of trout than that recorded during the 1975 and 1990 surveys,
periods when trout stocking occurred.
An obstacle to attainment of this goal is the higher bedload of sand
that is present now compared to 30 years ago. It is not known if this
increase has been enough to limit reproduction success, but sufficient
spawning areas appear to be present.
Species other than trout are not so abundant that trout are impacted
negatively. No instream habitat restoration is needed in any great amount,
and no problems can be foreseen with water quality at this time for the
East Branch. Mattawan Creek does not require any management activity.
Report completed: October 1991.
Bachman, R.A. 1982. Foraging behavior of free ranging wild brown trout
(Salmo trutta) in a stream. Ph.D. dissertation. The Pennsylvania State
University, University Park.
Table 1.-Species, relative abundance, and length of fish collected
by stream electrofishing at six sites on the East Branch of the Paw Paw
River, August 24 and September 5 and 10, 1990.
Table 2.-Species, relative abundance, and length of fish collected
by backpack electroshocking at Mattawan Creek, a tributary to the East
Branch of the Paw Paw River, September 10, 1990.
Van Buren County (T3S, R13 and 14W, Sections, many)
Kalamazoo County (T3S, R12W, Section 31)
James L. Dexter, Jr.
Information collected over the past 30 years on the East Branch indicate
that the stocking of brown trout is severely impacting the possibility
of attaining a trout fishery that is entirely composed of wild trout.
One of Fisheries Division's primary goals is to promote the increase of
wild trout where at all possible, while maintaining or improving the fishery.
The management goal for the East Branch will be to regain a wild population
of trout similar to that found in fisheries surveys of the 1960s when
no brown trout stocking took place. Two objectives will need to be met
in order to attain the goal. Objective 1 will be to terminate stocking
of all brown trout in the East Branch for a period of 4 years (1992&endash;1995).
Objective 2 will be to conduct a repeat of the 1990 survey in August
of 1995 and a spot check in 1993 to see what progress is being made by
the trout population. A catch per hour of at least 15 trout would be considered
successful. Further discontinuation of stocking will depend on the outcome
of that survey.
Expected results would include an increase in the CPE of trout and a
large increase in the number of young-of-the-year captured. The only obstacle
I see to attainment of these results is reproductive failure (lack of
recruitment) because of increased sediment loads since the 1960s.
Plan completed: October 1991
Last Update: 08/06/02