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Carmans River Dams and High Water Temps

From the Sea Run Brook Trout Coalition:

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.



Upper Gunpowder River Group Trying to Save Maryland’s Brook Trout

Interesting profile in the Baltimore Sun by Mike Klingaman about the Upper Gunpowder Watershed Brook Trout Conservation Partnership. I did not know that this area of Maryland was rich brook trout habitat:

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.”



TroutBlitzIf 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.

Brook Trout

Brook Trout Study Identifies Top Climate Change Pressure Factor

Brook Trout
Courtesy UMass Amherst

The results of a 15-year study of factors affecting brook trout survival show that the biggest issues are higher summertime temperatures and “extreme rain” events. Due to climate change, these trends are probably going to continue.

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.

Spawning Brook Trout – Now?

When exactly do brook trout spawn around here? While there is no alarm that rings and signals it is time, it does begin in the fall. Depending on where you get your information, in Virginia, that time may be here.

Mossy Creek Outfitters reports on October 21, 2015:

Many brook trout are paired up or have already spawned. This is a controversial topic and we respect informed anglers decisions to fish or give the brook trout a break. Our shop does not guide on brook trout water during this season nor do we actively fish mountain wild waters now through winter. We understand many responsible anglers enjoy this time of year in the mountains. We ask that anyone fishing please do your best to stay out of the creeks as much as possible to avoid stepping on redds or possibly coating fragile eggs with silt stirred up from wading. Return fish quickly to the stream and observe the pools for actively spawning fish and redds. Remember that brook trout eggs will incubate on the streambed for 45-140 days depending on water temps! This means you will need to be careful in these creeks until early March most years! Enjoy the colors in the mountains and the great fishing but please be cautious. We want to ensure a great spawn this season.

Murray’s Fly Shop two days earlier:

The brook trout are spawning now and most anglers believe it is best not to stress them by fishing for them even though we return them to the stream.

The Shenandoah National Park website:

Brook trout spawn in the fall, most typically from early October to mid November within park streams. Spawning is triggered by decreasing day length and water temperature. Shallow depressions know as redds are excavated by female brook trout on typically gravel substrates. Redds are initially defended by both sexes followed by abandonment upon the completion of spawning. Hatching typically commences during mid to late January within park streams and juvenile fish begin to vacate redds by mid March.

I was on the Rapidan last week and I did not see signs of fish spawning there yet. However, that was at lower elevation and in roughly the middle of the park. Farther north and higher up on the Blue Ridge, spawning is likely to be underway.

It’s good to be aware of all this, and if you do fish, try not to step in the stream when you don’t have to. And don’t be greedy. It is easy to spot brookies when they are sitting still in the current guarding their redds. Brook trout are under pressure in a ton of ways. Choosing to avoid fishing for them while they are spawning is a personal choice, but spawning is a critical time for them to successfully reproduce, so please go easy if you are out there.

Angling Trade: Do Native Trout Pay?

A key question about native trout, posed in Angling Trade’s fall 2015 issue:

But do anglers really care? And, for an outfitter or guide, do native trout fisheries help pay the rent?

I’d say some anglers care, but many couldn’t care less about native trout.

I think native fish are gems. We are fools to ignore how significant it is that these creatures are still around, and in those few remaining places they’ve always been, despite the best efforts of mankind to fuck up nearly everything for them.

Greenback cutthroat on Colorado’s Front Range, Gila trout in New Mexico, Westslope cutthroat in Idaho and Montana, Yellowstone and Colorado River cutthroats in Wyoming, bull trout, native salmonids, and of course brook trout in the East all live in habitat under constant pressure from development, demand for water, pollution, and climate change. Things aren’t getting better overall. There are some pockets of improvement, and a few more areas that are holding steady, but mostly, it is a story of relentless decline for native trout.

Go read State of the Trout on Trout Unlimited’s website if you don’t believe it.

As always, it’s a question of what we value. It is great to read about some of the outfitters and anglers in the Angling Trade piece who value native fish, but it is certainly not the majority’s view in our society that we should preserve the places that support these species. If it were, we wouldn’t be reading articles like this.

How to Ruin a Fishery

I really hate getting on the soapbox about environmental stuff. But… I really hate this crap even more.

Omega Protein Corporation, the company that has become expert at overfishing menhaden, the main forage species of saltwater gamefish on east coast, is an oozing sore. This article highlights just the latest problem with their operations. And the politicians in our state of Virginia are in the company’s pockets:

[Governor] McAuliffe, like many other public officials in Virginia, has benefited from Omega, receiving $25,000 in 2014 for the governor-elect’s inaugural committee, according to In all, the company has contributed $385,749 to the campaigns of Virginia candidates.

That matters because Virginia’s menhaden fishery is controlled by the General Assembly rather than by regulators, as all other saltwater fish are. Virginia is the only state on the Atlantic coast where lawmakers manage the menhaden fishery.

I have not read a single quote from a Virginia politician speaking out against this company. And no wonder, given how much Omega gives our lawmakers. Omega also spends quite a bit on lobbying. If I’m reading this page correctly (based on their methodology description), for the second quarter of 2014 the company spent $3.3 million on lobbying. That may not compare to, say, the pharmaceutical industry (which might spend ten times more), but it is not a small sum for a company that grinds up fish for nutritional, industrial and agricultural products.

These guys have also spent time on respectable activities like trying to change the science that determines how many menhaden are in the sea, threatening layoffs if menhaden quotas are limited, and almost comically, controlling the Executive Director of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Council like a puppet (read the whole article — all of it is startling).

Meanwhile, menhaden, The Most Important Fish in the Sea, are getting wiped out. The growing scarcity of this prime baitfish is a key factor in the long term decline in stocks of striped bass, bluefish and other predatory gamefish.

Omega Protein couldn’t give a rat’s ass.

So while this has nothing to do with brook trout directly, it is another example of how easy it is to decimate a fishery with nothing but greed. And that has happened throughout the entire range of the native trout of the East since our country was settled. Gluttonous exploitation is a sickness we humans come down with all the time.

Take Action – Protect the Chetco River in Oregon

Chetco River, OR | Northwest Rafting Company

So you’ve never heard of the Chetco and haven’t fished there either? I know, but it’s another one of those potential FUBAR things about which you may regret not taking action.

The Wild and Scenic Chetco River in Oregon is renowned for its world-class salmon and steelhead runs, and crystal clear water. However, it is still vulnerable to mining thanks to the General Mining Law. A law from 1872 that gives mining precedence over all other uses for the river!

The good news is that the U.S. Forest Service is urging the Interior Department to protect about 17 miles of the river by withdrawing it from mining for the next five years to give Congress time to pass more lasting protection via the Chetco River Protection Act.

Take action – contact Ken Salazar, U.S. Secretary of the Interior to help protect the Chetco. A sample letter to submit:

I support protection of the Wild and Scenic Chetco River from mining.  With its crystal clear water, big salmon, wild backcountry, and fabulous camp spots, the Wild and Scenic Chetco River is a great American outdoor treasure.  It’s also the beloved backyard river of local communities that benefit economically from its world-class salmon and steelhead fishery and the pure drinking water it provides.

The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest recently released its environmental assessment (EA) for a 5-year mineral withdrawal in aid of legislation (the Chetco River Protection Act).  The EA makes clear that suction dredge mining along the river threatens the outstandingly remarkable values for which the area was designated.  It emphasizes that these values are important economic drivers for local communities and that these values can only be fully protected through a mineral withdrawal.

American Rivers listed the Chetco River as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers® in 2010.  It is time to ensure that this river no longer warrants this concerning distinction.

Please approve the immediate withdrawal of the Chetco River from mining for the next five years, in order to allow Congress time to pass permanent protections for the river. Thank you for considering my views.