Spring Creek. You might recall that last winter I reported on what looked to be a crash in trout numbers at a popular upstate stream. Study by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has confirmed the crash of wild trout populations in Spring Creek and in parts of Oatka Creek near Caledonia-Mumford. It is currently working to develop strategies for assisting nature’s recovery of this unique fishery in western New York.
Climate change brought severe winter weather to the region over the past two years. In 2015, the Great Lakes, including Lake Ontario, near Spring Creek, saw unprecedented ice conditions. Consequently, rafts of fish-eating ducks like mergansers and grebes were forced to retreat from the lake and to find open water. The relatively warm flow of Spring Creek near Caledonia and the state fish hatchery offered one of the few areas open for the fowl, so most of the brook and brown trout were consumed.
Last January I reported some excellent winter fishing on the creek, and then a few weeks later I reported (along with numerous other Spring Creek fans) on seeing nothing. It’s a sad tale of yet another consequence of global climate change, and we can’t blame the ducks. Every human being and every living creature has to eat and struggle to survive.
The good news is that recent electro-surveys of Spring Creek and surrounding areas indicate that young-of-the-year brown trout look to be in decent shape and, barring another weather catastrophe, will be growing quickly in the diet-rich waters of this special ecosystem.
Shift. Since I’m not planning to fish winter streams where trout are scarce, I’ve been looking elsewhere in the region. So far, the weather has been warm enough to allow investigation of some inland streams not yet flooded or covered by ice. I’ve recently fished Mill Creek, the Conhocton River and a few brook trout runs in Pennsylvania. Some exciting possibilities remain, as long as the basket of outdoor life hasn’t flipped completely over.
An employee of the New York DEC submitted a 2015 photo from an electro-survey of a small (unnamable) stream in the Genesee River watershed (Thanks, S. C.). The photo depicts a rare tiger trout, or brook-brown hybrid, capable of stirring the imagination of local anglers. In the past few years, I’ve caught a tiger trout or two, but not a wild fish such as this.
As we contemplate the latest antics of those right-wing hooligans attempting to intimidate the country by seizing public lands in Oregon while inflicting upon us their paranoid views of government, I offer the following bit of small stream “Lite” from Scottish Humour:
“A man was cupping his hand to scoop water from a Highland burn. A gamekeeper shouted, ‘Dinnae drink tha waaater! Et’s foo ae coo’s shite and pish!’ The man replied, ‘My dear fellow, I’m from England. Would you kindly repeat that in English for me?’ The keeper replied, ‘I said use both hands, you’ll spill less that way!'”
A small window of opportunity. We experienced a few cold nights that brought icy cover to the ponds and small streams of the region. Then it warmed, and the weather forecast suggested that heavy rain was coming. Nonetheless, it was possible to sneak off and grab my angling fix on Saturday afternoon. Doing so, I had to be careful with the slippery ground along some Pennsylvania runs.
Let’s call one of them Denton Run. I’d walked portions of this Susquehannock State Forest stream a time or two, but had never fished it. I can reach this headwaters tributary in less than an hour; I was overdue to cast my line.
Fishing is prohibited on the lower mile of private “nursery water,” but with an upstream hike along a state Bureau of Forestry trail, I reached an inviting stretch of Denton Run. Snow and ice remained along the edges of this native trout stream so, of course, I stepped with winter care, especially on the leafy surfaces of rocks and boulders. This was no place to snap a fly rod or a leg, but it was suitable for contemplating one’s mortality and for study of a picturesque stream in January garb.
Some colorful brookies live in the run. I brought in several for a quick inspection and release. Again, I gave thanks to the wild places on this earth, and for the opportunity to see another one close to home. May they flourish for their own sake, always, I thought. And for our own well-being when we take the time to care.
The beaver dams on trout streams dilemma (again). Beavers may migrate to a new trout stream in the neighborhood, like refugees from overpopulated or conflicted watersheds, whether we want them there or not. New beaver dams on an eastern stream that’s already compromised by man’s activities may form a tipping point that leads to further problems through siltation and thermal pollution. New dams on a western stream, where drought is common and wetlands scarce, can lead to greater protection and a richer food base for native trout.
Evaluation has to be site specific. Chewing down trees and engineering trout-resistant dams aren’t acts of four-legged terrorism. After all, these rodents can assist in the establishment of insects, birds, amphibians, warm-water fishes, and other mammals, i.e., creatures that do not resort to firearms or intimidation when looking for new habitat. That doesn’t mean we’ve got to love the excess beaver on our trout streams.
It is simply nature’s way.
Small stream-of-consciousness, or the stars look very dif-fe-rent today… Some of us were greatly saddened this week to learn of David Bowie’s death. I’ve been an ardent Bowie fan ever since “Hunky Dory” hit the turn-tables back in ’71. The pioneer rock musician and performer will be missed by many who appreciate fine art and music with an edge.
Can you see the rivertops while at sea? Well, certainly, or maybe… if you use imagination. My daughter’s got a place on the island of St. Croix. We know it’s not trout that feed there in the mix of waters in her island photograph. I wonder… would tarpon grab an artificial?