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Home Stream in Trouble

Joined:
2013/2/16 0:51
From Northern VA
Posts: 467
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In short: my home stream needs some big time help.

I started fishing this little creek, an unnamed trib to the East Branch Brandywine south of Downingtown, when I was 12 or 13. A housing development was in the first planning stages and a DEP (I think) survey of the creek downhill of the site turned up native brook trout. My dad read about it in the newspaper and told me about it. One summer day, I walked about half an hour from my house to get to this creek. I crept up to the edge of the water above a deep undercut bank. When I looked over the edge, five native brookies were looking back at me. I've been fishing there (first with spinners, later with flies) ever since.

The little creek was awesome!! There were always at least one or two 8-9" brookies in every pool, and 4 or 5 in the deepest holes. There were loads of creek chubs and blacknose dace as well, which I would occasionally net for bass bait. Young brookies often turned up in the net as well (I resisted the temptation to use them for bait ). All of this existed within earshot of lawn mowers and barking dogs in the huge neighborhood just up the road.

For a while when I was younger I felt uncomfortable going there alone. Locals use the unpaved road here for all kinds of questionable purposes. One day dad and I drove up the road, occasionally dodging dumped window AC units along the way. Most of the pulloffs are dumping areas for christmas trees and broken furniture. I've even seen a few drug deals take place while I was fishing quietly in the woods away from the road and out of sight to anyone not looking closely.

Fast forward to yesterday. I am moving to the DC area in September so I wanted to fish this creek before I left. I fished the entire accessible length of creek and hit double digits for the first time ever here. So what's the problem??

The stream has degraded quickly in the past 7-8 years. Many of the tree root systems that used to hold trout have washed away and the pools partially filled in with silt. The channel is about 1.5-2X wider in places than I remember it, and most pools have gotten shallower. Log jams that used to make nice plunge pools below them have been blown out and the sediment they held back filled in the plunge pools. The one positive: the water itself still runs cold and clean.

9 of the 10 brookies I caught yesterday were less than 4" long. I fished about one mile of water, maybe a little more. I intentionally spooked and walked through every pool after fishing it to try and see how many adult trout I could find. I counted exactly 14 total. Based on that, I would estimate the adult trout population has declined by 70-80% in the past 7 years.

I was very encouraged to see so many young of the year (YOY) brook trout. I can't say I have ever seen so many! In several pools I counted at least 10 little guys. But it makes me wonder...if the creek can only support 1-2 dozen adult trout now...where are all of these little guys going to grow up?? Is the explosion of young trout just mother nature's last-ditch effort to keep the population alive?

I realize fish populations go in cycles, but if the habitat is continually disappearing, I fear all of these young trout will essentially go to waste. If we can go a year or two without more of the massive rainstorms that have been rearranging this stream seemingly multiple times a year, there should be some recovery. 2012 was a good year with good numbers of adult fish, but not how it used to be.

I am not sure the cause of the decline can be placed on one thing. I included satellite maps from sometime between 2003-2006 (loosely drew the watershed boundary on this) and another from google earth today. On the old one, you can see that the watershed has been pretty developed for decades now. On today's map, you can see the new development I mentioned on the southern edge of the watershed.

As I mentioned, flooding has been a major issue here. Every time one flushes the silt out of some pools and makes a few new ones...another flood fills them back in before the fish can establish themselves. The constant flooding has widened the channel and taken out tree root habitat. I don't know that the new development is to blame, but it may have been the tipping point. Either that, or we have just been unlucky with weather.

I would like to get an idea if there is any chance that some habitat work could be done on this little creek. A few crib shelters and some erosion control would do wonders. I have no idea if the property owners would go for it, but for where this creek is, it seems too special to lose. If nothing is done and we don't catch a break with the flooding, these trout will be gone within 10 years (probably within 5).

If anyone would like to check out the creek for themselves, shoot me a PM. I do not think now is the time to be secretive about it (just about anyone could figure it out from the info and pics I've given here). I have told a few forum members about it in the past. I could meet up to show anyone around before the end of the month (except tomorrow and this coming weekend). The fishing is mediocre, but it is still a neat place just to see that these fish are still holding on where they are...and to see the damage that has been done.

BTW, this stream is not on the PFBC natural reproduction list.

Here are some pics from yesterday...sorry some are a bit blurry, my phone camera wasn't doing so well with the lighting.

Attach file:



jpg  2003.JPG (135.06 KB)
7984_53f24114a7699.jpg 660X299 px

jpg  2014.JPG (128.52 KB)
7984_53f2411d483da.jpg 679X319 px

jpg  sawmill rd.JPG (60.29 KB)
7984_53f2412c8be73.jpg 346X486 px

jpg  sewer.JPG (77.62 KB)
7984_53f2413f8e386.jpg 347X591 px

jpg  creek chub.JPG (72.21 KB)
7984_53f2414c6082e.jpg 498X611 px

jpg  YOY1.JPG (50.82 KB)
7984_53f2416bb61c7.jpg 551X603 px

jpg  dace.JPG (74.23 KB)
7984_53f2417d905d5.jpg 599X611 px

jpg  YOY2.JPG (74.46 KB)
7984_53f2419ad7de2.jpg 673X604 px

jpg  new pool.JPG (76.26 KB)
7984_53f241a9c5970.jpg 426X616 px

jpg  YOY3.JPG (62.79 KB)
7984_53f241bb95762.jpg 457X609 px

jpg  adult brookie.JPG (44.33 KB)
7984_53f241d35990b.jpg 347X604 px

jpg  silted pool.JPG (58.73 KB)
7984_53f241e605e3a.jpg 347X611 px

jpg  no trout here.JPG (139.88 KB)
7984_53f241f411d37.jpg 1042X614 px

Posted on: 2014/8/18 14:07


Re: Home Stream in Trouble

Joined:
2012/8/21 18:22
From SEPA
Posts: 41
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Sucks man, it is pretty amazing where it's located. I've only fished it just a few times, but I could tell it definitely needs some help. If you do some work on it, let me know. I'd be willing to help.

Posted on: 2014/8/18 14:44


Re: Home Stream in Trouble

Joined:
2008/1/31 17:19
From Pretty much everywhere at some point, Thorndale today.
Posts: 2363
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My personal schedule is always quite packed. But let me know as well, I'd love to lend a hand if I could swing it.

Posted on: 2014/8/18 14:59


Re: Home Stream in Trouble

Joined:
2006/9/13 18:28
From chester ct
Posts: 250
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Maybe I should enlist the Valley Forge TU chapter. Although it is best known for the great work done on Valley Creek in the NP, over the years it has done a lot on the West Valley Creek, a bigger trib that flows into the EB from the east bank a bit down stream.


Posted on: 2014/8/18 15:02
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les


Re: Home Stream in Trouble

Joined:
2009/4/11 18:51
From State College
Posts: 7
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Those fish are beautiful Andrew

Posted on: 2014/8/18 15:15


Re: Home Stream in Trouble

Joined:
2006/9/13 10:18
From LV
Posts: 595
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From what you are telling us, I'd question whether your assessment is correct. Here's why YOY fish indicated a strong adult population, YOY should be about 3 inches by now if it's even a reasonably fertile stream. The very largest brook trout produce from 300 to 1000 eggs. If which each brood yields approximately 1 adult trout. It's entirely possible that you didn't see adults because they weren't in the section you fished, or they simply stayed put.
My next reaction is to say call the AFM and ask him if he has the latest survey results, and tell him of your concerns. It sounds like the habitat has been degraded by high flows, but maybe the holding lies have been changed in the process. Then again, you may indeed be right.
Development has insidious untended results, primarily, more sediment into the streams because development causes higher run-off, because the run-off issue wasn't dealt with properly. Development can also add nutrient loading caused by un-regulated use of fertilizer.

Posted on: 2014/8/18 16:18
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The object of a resource is to use and reuse a resource, not to use it up, have we learned nothing in over 125 years of stocking?


Re: Home Stream in Trouble

Joined:
2013/2/16 0:51
From Northern VA
Posts: 467
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Ryan and Pat- thanks for the offer. It may be hard for me personally to lead anything, since I will be moving away. I may either be returning to the area or staying in VA come January, I just don't know yet.

Les- I think that's the best thing to try to do. I'm only a few months out of college and I'd be in over my head quickly on a project like this. The issues are somewhat similar to crabby creek (Little Valley trib) where they were involved in some work I believe. However, here you wouldn't have to reintroduce the brookies, they are still there (for now). What is needed is just a few more stable, deep holes with overhead cover that will hold adult trout through the summer. Spawning habitat is good. Will reply to your PM later this evening.

Chaz- I would like to agree with you. But comparing the available habitat now to what was there just 5-6 years ago, I think the writing is on the wall for these trout. Certainly I was not able to kick out some of the trout that are there, but I am sure I at least found half of them (that are in that section), probably more like 3/4. They are few and far between upstream of where I was.

As for the AFM- can't ask about surveys when they haven't surveyed it before. To Mike's credit, almost all of the other area brookie streams were surveyed for the first time recently and are now on the list of "proposed additions to the NR list."

Posted on: 2014/8/18 17:24


Re: Home Stream in Trouble

Joined:
2012/10/24 19:22
From Landenberg, PA
Posts: 389
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i'd be happy to help. I live not far away.

the problem you will have - as i do on my small creek i've been restoring next to my house, is flash floods moving the gravel and rocks around.

what i've found is that low deflectors or even just a line of stones will survive water washing over them, but higher larger ones get broken up or pushed into the stream.

i also narrowed it in places by digging the gravel and piling it on the sides, and topped by branches.

on my little creek the silt is now gone, now replaced by gravel and with the quicker flow keeping it clean, it hasn't silted yet.

for deeper pools, you can place small logs across a bend - i watched "creating scour pools in low energy streams" by the Wild Trout Trust which showed how to create them - you don't want deep slow pools creating warmer temps like dam pools etc.

i also learned that for riffles, submerged stones half dug into the gravel won't be washed away easily and still make nice riffles, but should be staggered so as not to deflect the flow and reduce velocity.

Velocity is definitely your friend and even though you want pools and slack water, you want to make sure there is a strong flow on at least one side always.

basically you need to work with the power of the water and not against it - without major work it cannot be redirected, but with some thought it can be gently persuaded to go the way you want it to.

Hit me up next week or weekend, i'm happy to get together with whoever.

Cheers

Mark.

Posted on: 2014/8/19 19:28

Edited by geebee on 2014/8/19 19:58:27
Edited by geebee on 2014/8/19 20:02:13
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Re: Home Stream in Trouble

Joined:
2006/9/13 10:18
From LV
Posts: 595
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You should get the stream on the AFM radar, just make the call or PM him, he's regularly on this site.
If he doesn't know there are trout there and it's not on the Natural Reproduction list , then yes it's in trouble. It just one of the reasons why keeping secret streams secret is bad for the stream.

Posted on: 2014/8/19 20:30
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The object of a resource is to use and reuse a resource, not to use it up, have we learned nothing in over 125 years of stocking?


Re: Home Stream in Trouble

Joined:
2013/2/16 0:51
From Northern VA
Posts: 467
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I've mentioned it to him several times over the past few years. Maybe they even surveyed it this summer, idk. This one plus two others (the other two are mainly brown trout streams) have not been added to the list yet and I know he is aware of all three.

Mark, thanks for the reply, and good info. I think the kind of things you mentioned could work well...but without permits and stuff I don't think we can just go busting in and moving stuff around unless it is very minimal. In which case I don't know if it would even be worth it, could be too little too late. However I'd be willing to try some things in a couple spots as it is about all I would have time for in the next 10 days.

Posted on: 2014/8/19 22:32
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Re: Home Stream in Trouble

Joined:
2006/11/2 8:50
Posts: 1429
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You do need permit to do any kind of alterations or placement of structures in streams, if you want to be legal.

And you need landowner approval, of course.

And the value of "rock rolling" is questionable.

Involvement of groups such as TU, conservancies, watershed groups, county conservation district, would more likely lead to beneficial results.

It is possible for streams to improve. In other threads it was pointed out that some streams have improved significantly as the result of improvement of riparian vegetation.


Posted on: 2014/8/20 9:04

Edited by troutbert on 2014/8/20 10:02:25
Edited by troutbert on 2014/8/20 10:03:58


Re: Home Stream in Trouble

Joined:
2014/1/6 7:27
From Lancaster, PA
Posts: 28
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Quote:

Chaz wrote:
You should get the stream on the AFM radar, just make the call or PM him, he's regularly on this site.
If he doesn't know there are trout there and it's not on the Natural Reproduction list , then yes it's in trouble. It just one of the reasons why keeping secret streams secret is bad for the stream.


Bingo! But of course that's not the popular view here.

Jeff

Posted on: 2014/8/20 12:56


Re: Home Stream in Trouble

Joined:
2014/1/6 7:27
From Lancaster, PA
Posts: 28
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I'd second the suggestion of getting the local TU chapter involved. Native trout are one of the key initiatives of TU, and they should be on top of this. Note that some local chapters can be less enthusiastic than others due to varying demographics, that that doesn't change the larger goal of the organization nor the value of getting them involved.

As for the stream, I went into Google earth and located the area then set it up to a do loop so I could visually see changes in development. As you noted, there's been no significant change in some time. The only significant addition is the small development on the south side of the stream.

I'm going to put forth another hypothesis: The heavy rains and subsequent massive flooding of several major storms in the last few years played a role in dramatically messing up the stream as a result of too much water rushing off of all of the paved areas in the region.

There were significant floods in that area in 2010 from the remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole and 2011 had double whammies from Hurricane Irene in August and Tropical Storm Lee in September. These were significant enough that they compromise four of the top ten total flooding flooding events for the Schuylkill River basin in NOAA's list going back to 1775 (although I'm sure some older, smaller floods pre-1900 were not as well-recorded).

I know that a number of streams here in Lancaster County and in York County were effected by these storms and floods as well, some for the better and some for the worst. That stream had the potential to drain a fairly decent-sized area and its relatively straight and in a narrow valley so the water would have just barreled its way down through there and blasted out a lot of habitat. A restoration project would help in the short term as the stream begins the long slow process of recovering naturally.

Jeff

Posted on: 2014/8/20 13:23


Re: Home Stream in Trouble

Joined:
2013/10/24 21:14
From Forks of the Ohio
Posts: 14
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sarce i really enjoyed reading this post. its great that you are interested in speaking up to protect this stream. if you arent interested in saving it, who will?

Also, I really enjoyed your passion and im glad you shared your memories of your childhood.

Posted on: 2014/8/20 15:05


Re: Home Stream in Trouble

Joined:
2009/10/15 13:45
From Eastern PA
Posts: 37
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Quote:

Chaz wrote:
You should get the stream on the AFM radar, just make the call or PM him, he's regularly on this site.
If he doesn't know there are trout there and it's not on the Natural Reproduction list , then yes it's in trouble. It just one of the reasons why keeping secret streams secret is bad for the stream.


Agreed. Feel free to shoot me a PM and I can put you in touch with folks that are really trying to identify these types of issues and are working very actively to protect them.

Posted on: 2014/8/21 2:30



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