Colonial era dams in Yaphank are causing higher water temperatures in parts of the Carmans River and should be removed or opened, environmental advocates say.
The groups Defend H2O and SeaRun Brook Trout Coalition say the dams create thermal pollution by artificially spreading out the water and slowing it down, allowing it to collect heat. Restoring the flow would reduce temperatures, halt the spread of invasive species and return natural fish passage routes to the river, reducing the need for costly dredging and other treatments, they say.
These dams have been there since the 1700s, and seems like the only appeal they have now is related to the lakes they hold back. People there like the lakes.
It’s always a question of values. Brook trout are on the verge of being extirpated in so many places. On Long Island, the Carmans is one of a just a few rivers that still have populations of brook trout, which used to be everywhere in the greater New York City area. Now, it’s just another remnant population barely hanging on.
Where to find some brook trout today? And can I make it easy? In other words, can I drive somewhere within an hour, not have to hike very far, catch some good fish, and not get shot by a hunter while doing it? And can I catch every fish on dry flies, in full spawning colors, and preferably in size medium at least?
Sometimes those are the questions I ask. Living here in the northern Shenandoah Valley, there are spots I can get to and be fully geared-up and fishing in under an hour. Not epic fishing, and not completely safe during hunting season, but it’s possible. For reasons known only to us fly fisherman, however, convenient and familiar waters that are just fine do little to draw us. What we all crave is a little adventure, even if the emphasis is on the “little” part — in distance, place, and fish size. It’s a craving satisfied by finding someplace new, even if it’s not “new” to everyone else, and even if it holds the promise of being only slightly better and maybe not that different from our regular haunts. That, I suppose, is the definition of fishing porn, as opposed to “fish porn,” which is the endless buffet of photos and videos of fish caught, and it’s different than, well, just porn.
Anyway… Last week I spent two days fishing Little Stony Creek. If you’re looking for a place that is a short drive and has easy access, Little Stony Creek near Edinburg, Virginia may not be that place, depending on where you live and your ideas about convenience. Turns out it’s a nice little stream, but hiking and bushwhacking is, as usual, required. I had fished Big Stony Creek before, of which Little Stony is a notable tributary, but I had never gotten up to the Little Stony until now.
On both days, I parked at the small lot where the National Forest road crosses the creek. The first day was reconnaissance. I hiked a bit and headed downstream to the Woodstock Reservoir and checked out just three pools. I tried three different flies — foam beetle, greenish Elk Hair Caddis, and in the last pool that was the biggest, flattest, and had the slowest water, a size 16 Adams. Got a fish in each before moving on. All of them were the normal, five to seven inch small freestone stream fish you would find in any of our mountain trout streams. And all on dry flies… no surprise.
On day two, I hiked upstream and spent a lot more time fishing. It was pushing 68 degrees, and the bigger and bushier the dry fly I tried, the larger the fish were that I hooked. I had a lot of action, but it could have been even better. One of the things to keep in mind about Little Stony Creek is that it runs north-south. With the sun low in the sky this time of year, it was hard to maneuver and consistently keep my shadow off the water. Actually, the real problem was the shadow of the rod when I cast. So there was a lot of pre-planning at every single pool, positioning myself off to the side, making sidearm casts, and stuff like that. On a cloudy day like the first day I fished here, that’s obviously not a concern.
Despite all that, the fishing was good. It’s not the complete wilderness experience of Shenandoah National Park, and depending on where you live, it might be a lot farther away than SNP for what amounts to very similar fishing and the potential for slightly lower fish sizes compared to a few of the better SNP streams. There are almost five miles of water to fish, though, and it empties into the Woodstock Reservoir. I want to believe there are bigger brookies in that impoundment, but despite prowling the banks a bit and making some casts, I didn’t see them and haven’t heard much about what’s swimming in there.
You do have to contend with some trash and campsite detritus here. This is the price you pay for fairly straightforward access and less strenuous hiking. It’s also hunting season, and though I saw only a single vehicle parked at a turnout on Monday as well as Friday, it’s something to be aware of. Much less a concern than some of the streams around Massanutten, though.
Now the bushwhacking part. This place is thick with vegetation. In December, it’s not too bad to push through some brush to get on and off the stream. However, come spring or summer, getting around much of this place would be misery. Even the trail itself is not always well defined. So be warned. It’s not a matter of getting lost, since you’re in a narrow, deep valley, but it can get frustrating. My wife was with me on the first day, and heading back to the car from the reservoir we somehow lost the trail because we wanted to check out one more pool we had seen on the way down. We ended up bulldozing our way up some steep slopes and a dry creek bed, knowing that simply heading due west we’d hit the trail eventually. And we did. But again, in late spring or summer, that would be a different experience.
I’ll surely head back here since it’s not too far from home. However, it’s just as easy for me to get to some other streams, and those are up next.
Weather conditions: mostly sunny, winds SSW 3 to 10 mph
Their goal: to maintain that 38-square mile area, in northern Carroll and Baltimore counties, with its 60 miles of streams that are home to one-fourth of Maryland’s brook trout. Only the Savage River Watershed, in Garrett County, boasts more fish. “This cluster of streams [in the Gunpowder] is one of the last Eastern outposts of brook trout that isn’t in the Appalachian Mountains,” said Mark Staley, central region manager for Inland Fisheries.
The challenge is that most of it is private property and much of it is farmland. On the other hand, the fact that so much brook trout water exists here is proof that something has been done right. Scott Scarfone, coordinator of the Upper Gunpowder Watershed Brook Trout Conservation Partnership, is trying to convince landowners to continue to be good stewards of this area:
“This fish is the canary in the coal mine,” Scarfone said. “Knowing you have a piece of land pristine enough to sustain brook trout tells you that the environment is fairly pure and intact. People see value in that.”
If you’re out there catching native trout then you may be interested in contributing photos and data to TroutBlitz, Trout Unlimited’s initiative to catalog North America’s salmonids. It’s based on the concept of a BioBlitz, but instead of just 24 hours this is an ongoing effort. Use this guide to help you do it correctly. They have apps for iOS and Android, too (see the main TroutBlitz page, links at the bottom). And if you’re looking for new places to find fish, this is another good resource.
Co-author Ben Letcher, fisheries biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey and adjunct faculty in environmental conservation at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, says, “It took years of sampling four streams and tracking more than 15,000 individual fish, but we feel we can account for about 90 percent of the yearly variation in abundance. The bottom line is that high summer temperatures are bad. That is unfortunate because summer air temperature is expected to increase with climate change and extreme rain is also expected to increase, especially in the spring when vulnerable eggs are hatching and fry are emerging.”
Brook trout may evolve, if given enough time, to adapt to these changing conditions. Unfortunately, these changes may outpace this kind of evolution.