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Blog > Conservation > Big Spring Update and PFBC Meeting - Part 1

Big Spring Update and PFBC Meeting - Part 1

Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 10/07/2013 (2125 reads)
Part 1

I met up with Dave Weaver last Monday to check on the progress of the PFBC Phase 2 stream enhancements for Big Spring Creek in Newville, PA and to attend the PFBC meeting that evening. It was a pleasant afternoon and I enjoyed a little stream time as well around the middle fly fishing section where the project was recently completed. These projects on Big Spring have been a significant effort for many for the last several years. A lot of progress has been made in stream enhancements for wild trout within this watershed, but not without some controversy along the way.

Big Spring is a wonderful stretch of limestone fed water located in Cumberland County. There has always been a lot of attention given to the stream due to its productivity as a Class A brook trout stream, beautiful environment and rich history. The PFBC owns a good stretch on both sides of the stream, which gives them unique opportunity to manage Big Spring unlike other waters across the state.

Big Spring CreekThe stream is also tied up in a lot of controversy on how to manage the trout and waterway between anglers, landowners, scientists, guides, the Big Spring Watershed Association, Trout Unlimited, PFBC and others. Much of the issue stems from the fact that Big Spring is a highly productive limestone brook trout stream, something that there isn’t a lot of left in the state. The main bone of contention, currently, surrounds the population of non-native rainbow trout that are thriving in these waters and – in the view of some - threaten the success of the native brook trout fishery. Everyone wants brook trout to have the best opportunity to be successful in these waters. There are a lot of strong opinions on how to do this. Views range from doing nothing, to removing all the rainbow trout.

Since 2006 PFBC has worked with other organizations to take on the Big Spring Creek habitat enhancements with the goal of improving wild trout habitat, particularly for brook trout. In 2010, with funds from both the state and federal Government, Phase 1 was completed covering 2050 feet. Phase 2, which was funded with a grant from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, has now been completed, covering 2,000 feet of improvements. Part of these improvements include riparian plantings in the newly filled areas utilizing native plants. If you visit Big Spring, please watch your step as some of these plants are still small.

In large part, these efforts involve correcting some of the negative effects from the mills and dams that had a dominate role from the mid 1700's through the early 1900's on Big Spring. In both phases, construction work included narrowing the stream channel while slowing the water speed and increasing the depth and cover, through the use of log vane deflectors, enhanced riparian shelves, and improved wetlands.

Phase 2 Project and Meeting Part 2 here

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Published: 2013/10/8 13:20  Updated: 2013/10/8 13:20
Joined: 09/13/2013
From: Mt. Holly Springs, PA 17065 USA
Comments: 4
 Re: Big Spring Update and PFBC Meeting
Pretty accurate timeline. On one point though-there is absolutely no evidence that the brook trout in Big spring are THE native ones. Yes, they, like the rainbows, are streambred. That does not make them native. When the BS hatchery closed there were VERY few brook trout in the stream. PF&BC has been stocking brook trout exclusively in the reaches of Big Spring below Nealey Road since before the hatchery closed and the survivors do move upstream. Big Spring has been stocked with various trout including brook trout since the late 19th century. About ten years ago the Fly Fisher Club of Harrisburg planted Vibert boxes in the stream containing eggs from a HYBRID strain of northern brook trout that Ernie Schweibert obtained for them. Almost all of the eggs hatched and significant numbers of YOY brookies were found in that area the next summer during electro fishing surveys. What happened to them later is unkown. This year PF&BC stocked brookies at least three times and they were also stocked by a private entity at least once. SO wild brookies/wild rainbows. Neither "native". Which ones are most valuable or do they BOTH hold considerable value?
Published: 2013/10/21 11:19  Updated: 2013/10/21 11:19
Joined: 12/03/2006
From: Mechanicsburg, Pa
Comments: 220
 Re: Big Spring Update and PFBC Meeting
When examined in this light, should the rainbows be extirpated from Big Spring? It appears the heritage strain is long since gone and who is to say the brook trout being stocked there now are really suited for the stream? Why are hatchery brook fingerlings being used? I would suggest collecting eggs from the resident brook trout population similar to what is being done with the Erie steelhead, raising to fingerling size, then releasing. Maybe others can comment on the feasibility of accomplishing this task. I know Wisconsin has a program fashioned in this manner. Seems like if there is truly an interest in restoring the brook trout fishery, this would be the way to go. After all those Big Spring reproducing brook trout have demonstrated the ability to spawn in the current stream conditions.

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