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Update from the PFBC Big Spring Meeting

Published by David Weaver [Fishidiot] on 11/07/2012 (3480 reads)
The meeting was well attended and the attendees included John Arway and many of the PFBC staff including the Area Fisheries Managers involved with this project. Also present were many prominent names in the Pennsylvania Fly Fishing Community who you would recognize as well as local folks and some Big Spring old timers. The meeting presented the plan for a new restoration section in 2013 and proposed some changes for the future. Among the audience, the main source of disagreement, not surprisingly, dealt with the issue of what (if anything) should be done about the rainbows. Here's the short version of the meeting:

Big Spring Creek-PFBC biologists presented a ppt show describing the flow, cover, and depth changes in the section restored in 2010. The stream is now narrower, deeper, and slower, and has more non-vegetation cover and thus more "optimal" habitat for both brook and rainbow trout. The gravel used to block in the logs in this section is being used by rainbows for spawning and, in the future, smaller gravel should be used as this might reduce rainbow spawning success. Also, dissolved oxygen levels at the lower end of the FFO section and downstream into the ATW section are lower than optimal for wild trout.

-PFBC ppt show describing the electrofishing results of the section that was restored in 2010 and the sections used as control. After the 2010 restoration, brook trout numbers increased (roughly doubled) and rainbow numbers increased in the restored section by a greater margin (roughly four fold). These were the results revealed in the 2011 fish survey. The recent 2012 survey of these same sections revealed that rainbows, although still more numerous in the restored section, had declined a bit in 2011-2012. Brook trout numbers continued to rise in this section and in the upstream control section from 2011 to 2012.

-Over the entire course of the FFO section of Big Spring, as of autumn 2012, the trout population looks roughly like this: In the upper reaches - essentially the ditch down into the upper part of the restored section - now is about 60% brook trout. From the lower section of the restored area down to the bottom at Nealy Rd, rainbows are about 94% of the population.

-For the future, the PFBC management goal with respect to trout to get to a ratio of 70% brook/30% rainbow in the entire FFO section within five years (I believe this is numbers, not biomass). There are currently no plans to build a barrier and remove rainbows by electrofishing (these will be reconsidered in five years if necessary). To reduce rainbows in the next few years, it has been proposed to allow harvest in the FFO section. I wish to emphasize that this is a proposal still subject to approval by the commissioners. There is currently no change in the fishing regulations on BS. However, in the future, the FFO section may allow the harvest of several rainbows over 7 inches. This section will continue to be managed as FFO without bait or spin fishing.
This was the basic content and thrust of the meeting.

After the PFBC presentation there was considerable discussion and disagreement among the audience, mostly regarding the 'bows vs. brookies debate. I'd guess that the comments were about evenly divided between those wanting to leave the rainbows alone and those who feel they're a threat to brookies and should be removed or reduced. The meeting concluded with Arway's comments thanking the attendees and reminding us that the PFBC is still receiving comments and eager to hear your opinion on Big Spring.

Here is a PDF of the PFBC slide deck from the meeting. - Thanks just_jon
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Author Thread
Published: 2012/11/8 6:44  Updated: 2012/11/8 6:44
Joined: 12/29/2006
From: Harrisburg
Comments: 18
 Re: Update from the PFBC Big Spring Meeting
Thank you Dave. I'd rather see some trophy brookies but those rainbows are just impossible to deny and deserve some respect.
Big Spring is the top dog in the state concerning wild rainbows by a pretty wide margin and they're downright beautiful as well.
Published: 2012/11/9 17:24  Updated: 2012/11/9 17:24
Joined: 09/09/2006
From: Monessen, PA
Comments: 3114
 Re: Update from the PFBC Big Spring Meeting
Do those rainbows rise?

I think that there is a subconscious push to make Big Spring a destination water and it will deserve to be. I hope those interested push equally hard to maintain some conservation regulations and police for law-breakers. Access should be an equal concern, because as the stream returns to glory, whether multicolored or not, it won't be long before leasing activity begins in earnest.
Published: 2012/11/9 22:08  Updated: 2012/11/9 22:08
Joined: 09/09/2006
From: Gettysburg
Comments: 439
 Re: Update from the PFBC Big Spring Meeting
Yes, they rise....but not often. This is typical in the Cumberland Valley where fish feed more on scuds etc. Insect hatches, however, are returning to Big Spring and old time accounts of the brookies back in the stream's heyday describe surface feeding being widespread. However (like Letort) the reputation for surface feeding in the past doesn't hold up much in reality today in my opinion. As for access, the entire FFO section is owned by the PFBC. Downstream in the ATW there could be posting or eventual club water.

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