Monthly Archives: October 2011

Not Ashamed to Pay For It

The Connetquot River State Park on Long Island is a pretty well-known pay-to-fish venue, but there’s another one up on the north shore. Caleb Smith State Park is home to the nicest part of the Nissequogue River (nicest part for trout, anyway — I’ve caught a lot of stripers and blues a few miles downstream at its mouth). It’s a calm, shallow, pretty spring creek with a uniform bed of fine gravel and lots of bright green aquatic grasses.  The fishing usually ends Oct. 15, but the Parks Department extended the 2011 season because Hurricane Irene had kept everyone off the river for a couple of weeks.

Nothing hatching except for a few midges. Trout rose a few times early in the morning, but nymphs and wet flies were the order of the day. I used my Tenkara USA Ebisu rod and my own version of the awesome Killer Kebari soft-hackle.

Lost several, landed a couple, nice morning all in all. Tough to land a fish in the tight confines, but out on open water, the Ebisu handled good-sized and frisky trout just fine. I did find myself wishing I’d used the longer and heavier Amago instead, with heavier tippet.

Jacks Are Wild

My fishing buddy had never seen the Salmon River in New York in mid-October, so we drove up and looked off the bridges at the zoo-like scenes at Altmar and Pulaski. The fishing was shoulder-to-shoulder in the usual spots. We saw plenty of large, dark king salmon being dragged in on fly and spin rods — most hooked in fins. At the public access closest to the estuary, we saw a few beautiful steelhead on stringers.

But you don’t always have to fish in a mob, even on the Salmon River. It helped that it was Sunday and many anglers packed up and left at lunchtime, which was when we started. We waded into a pretty stretch just above town where only a few people were fishing and proceeded to catch nothing all afternoon. The bright, sunny weather turned Central New York snotty — dark, windy & spitting occasional rain.

Finally, late in the afternoon, we started casting to a small pod of big kings that were cavorting in shallow water. Yes, this may have been some kind of spawning activity, and I feel a little guilty about pestering them, especially since wild king salmon are becoming very well established on the Salmon River. But the kings were too preoccupied to even notice our flies swimming around.

Then we both thought we saw a flash of a brighter fish alongside the ruckus. Hoping a steelhead had come to peek in on the freaky kings, my buddy cast and the fish took his fly on the second pass. Turned out it was a jack, a small king that had come upriver a year or two ahead of schedule. This fish, like the next four we caught, put up a wild fight, charging down a shallow side channel, pulling, running and even leaping now and then. My partner used streamers, I used Sucker Spawn (with no shot), and the jacks readily grabbed them both. Our 12-pound fluoro generally held and we picked most of them up.

Next month, steelhead.

Did Fracking Destroy a Pennsylvania Creek?

We’ll probably never know. A new story in Scientific American notes that even though a coal company paid a multi-million-dollar settlement to the EPA over the 2009 fish kill on Dunkard Creek, an EPA scientist suspected fracking could be the real culprit.

He also suggested fracking fluid might have been dumped in a coal mine waste pit which then contaminated the creek, so in a sense both the coal and gas industries would be responsible.

Even with emails uncovered through the Freedom of Information Act, the story can make no firm conclusion about the cause of the fish kill, the biggest in Pennsylvania and West Virginia history (the creek winds back and forth along the state line.)

But it does make a few things clear:

  • Fish kills are awful. “What a mess!” SA quotes EPA biologist Lou Reynolds writing to colleagues. “Up to our knees in rotting fish, mussels, and mudpuppys is no fun — it’s criminal. Dead mudpuppys look like sock puppets floating in the stream. Mussels die, the meat rots off the shell, then bloats and floats down the stream like a hellish jelly fish. The stench of rotting fish takes a day or more to work out of your scent memory.”
  • Authorities believe at least one trucker hired by the gas industry dumped fracking waste into streams, a top worry of stream advocates. “In March, Pennsylvania authorities arrested a local waste hauler, Allan Shipman, whose trucks were contracted to dispose of flowback brine from gas companies. The allegations against Shipman, laid out in a grand jury presentment, say he improperly disposed of brine in tributaries of Dunkard Creek.” (Shipman isn’t charged with any wrongdoing upstream of the kill.)
  • Frack waste is as bad as coal mine waste, which has been a scourage of Appalachia for decades. “What scientists could say definitively about the fish kill is that a swift increase in ‘total dissolved solids,’ or TDS, played a role, creating the conditions for a bloom of the toxic algae. What they couldn’t tell is exactly what caused the increase. TDS can be caused by both coal mine drainage and waste brine from Marcellus Shale gas drilling operations.” Is New York ready for what could, in terms of waste, be thousands of mini coal mines?

Albany pundits are calling fracking in New York a done deal. President Obama is calling for more natural gas production. Even Trout Unlimited has stopped short of flat-out opposition to fracking. It may be that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is saving his environmental firepower to shut down the Indian Point nuke plant, and TU is doing the same to stop the abominable Pebble Mine proposal in Alaska.

But it also seems very likely that fracking in New York will end up in court. Hellish jelly fish may be Exhibit A.

‘But It Was Still A Brook’

A must-read from Henrietta Jordan at Adirondack Wild on the destruction of John’s Brook in the High Peaks of the Adirondacks. I’ve never read a better assessment of channelizing mountain streams.

“After Irene passed, the brook was a mess—huge chunks of its banks had been gouged away, tree trunks and debris were piled up, and cobbles were strewn everywhere. But it was still a brook. And if you walked the banks of it, you could see that this had happened before, that violent storms had caused pileups of boulders now covered by forest duff and trees, as the brook shifted in its valley over millennia as brooks are wont to do.”

‘Insane’: Destroying Trout Habitat for No Good Reason

Daily Gazette article
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Morgan Lyle 
By now, most of us who spend a lot of time hanging around creeks have heard about the so-called emergency repairs done to protected trout streams in the Catskills and the Adirondacks in the wake of Tropical Storms Irene and Lee.

Numerous environmental groups, including the New York State Council of Trout Unlimited, have lodged protests with Gov. Andrew Cuomo for issuing a month-long blanket exemption from stream protection laws — an “emergency authoriz­ation” that was supposed to cover only imminent threats to life, property, etc.

Local governments and property owners appear to have taken the emergency authorization as a green light to go in and bulldoze, without penalty, streams they’ve wanted to bulldoze for years. The result has left streams all over eastern New York scraped flat and smooth, with sloping sides, like irrigation ditches, and local officials demanding the emergency auth­orization be extended so they can continue bulldozing.

This kind of work obviously ruins trout habitat. But channelizing streams also makes them more dangerous, not less. Removing the boulders and contours — the “roughness” of the streambed — serves to accelerate water.

Downstream of these channels, the next big flood — and floods like this happen far more often than they used to — will cause even more damage.

Ed Van Put, author of “Trout Fishing in the Catskills” and longtime resident of Livingston Manor on the Willowemoc Creek, who recently retired from a 40-year career with the Department of Environmental Conservation, said there’s no reason for month-long emergency auth­orizations. DEC staff can evaluate flood damage case by case and write permits for necessary repairs.

“By the time the water got low enough where you could put equipment in the streams, we would be in the field,” Van Put said, recalling his own experiences permitting emergency stream work after floods. “When I went in the field and wrote permits daily, there was no question that you were liberal with your permits and you let people do what in normal times you wouldn’t let them do. But to give them carte blanche is crazy.”

Obviously, a certain amount of emergency construction work is required after any flood, and espec­ially after storms like Irene and Lee. You can’t leave uprooted trees jammed under bridges or culverts packed full of gravel. You have to rebuild streamside roads and bridges and driveways.

In fact, one of the most environmentally minded people I know got a power shovel into the small stream behind his house for fear the house itself would be threatened. Some work just can’t be helped.

But observers say the highway departments and landowners didn’t stop at emergency repairs.

“It looks like after the road work was done, that additional work was done, removing large substrates, large rocks and making the channel look more like a big canal,” said Timothy Mihuc, a professor of environmental science at SUNY Plattsburgh and director of the Lake Champlain Research Institute. “It’s the additional work that’s causing all the alarm.”

It doesn’t alarm James Eisel, chairman of Delaware County Board of Supervisors. In a news release from Assemblyman Pete Lopez (R-C Schoharie), Eisel and his counterparts in Greene and Schoharie demand the emergency authorization be extended.

“We have tried for years to get in and clean up the stream beds, and it’s always been an uphill battle,” Eisel said. “It’s time for them to do away with the permits and allow us to clean up. If there’s another storm, without giving us the opportunity to clean up the streams, the results will be catastrophic.”

After the big floods of 1996 and 2005 there was talk about restoring stream channels to disperse the power of floods, of reconnecting streams to their flood plains, of buying and removing structures from flood-prone areas. A Trout Unlimited vice president told me five years ago there had been a “sea change” in the flood response in New York.

And yet here we are, doing things the way they were done 50 years ago.

“It always goes back to the fact that they have to ‘do something,’ ” Van Put said. “I’ve had town supervisors tell me, ‘I know it isn’t doing any good, but it makes people feel better that we’re doing something.’ That is insane.

“To me, the governor just pushing the law aside was an outrage,” he said. “It’s like, ‘Let’s do away with speed limits for a month.’ ”

Take That, Trout Streams!

Do you think highway superintendents, property owners and anyone else with access do a bulldozer, an excavator and a tri-axle dump truck should be allowed to do whatever they want to a trout stream with no oversight from the state Department of Environmental Conservation?

The chairman of the Delaware County, N.Y. Board of Supervisors seems to think so. And a state assemblyman seems to agree, since he included the notion in his news release, included here in its entirety.

For the record, the work shown in the photos below — which the assemblyman distributed with his news release — is clearly and obviously in violation of the DEC’s emergency authorization allowing repairs in the wake of tropical storms Irene and Lee. As noted in an earlier post, the repair work is supposed to “conform to the preflood depth, width, gradient, and channel character, matching the stable stream channel upstream and downstream of the project area.” Fat chance.

Contact: Allison Scott (518) 455-5981


As communities continue to grapple with the massive impacts of Hurricanes Irene & Lee, Assemblyman Pete Lopez (R, C, I – Schoharie) has requested Governor Cuomo continue emergency attention to stabilizing the hundreds of streams and creeks that devastated the region.

“Despite our best collective efforts, the clearing and stabilization of tributaries remains a critical challenge; many channels have left their banks while others are laden with silt, gravel, and debris,” said Assemblyman Lopez. “Unattended, these compromised streams and creeks pose a continued and significant threat to our roads, bridges, and schools, as well as to private businesses, farms and homes.”

Following the storms, the governor authorized the temporary suspension of permits required to clean up debris from stream beds in navigable waters, protected streams and freshwater wetlands in declared disaster areas until October 8, 2011. Coupled with this waiver has been the release of federal funds through FEMA to take on the massive work.

While progress is being made as a result of the Governor’s initial efforts, Assemblyman Lopez and local officials are concerned that the recovery efforts have been complicated by continued heavy rains, slowing the pace of necessary work. These delays will lead to further flooding, landslides and other damage across the region.

Harold Vroman, Chair of the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors, said, “We need to have this deadline extended. There’s not enough time to get clean up done in the short period we have and there’s a lot that needs to be done. If we aren’t able to clean up before the spring thaw, we could see additional major flooding and damage to personal houses.”

At a special legislative meeting of the Greene County Legislature, held September 19th, a resolution was passed asking for an additional 6-month extender on the permit waiver. Wayne Speenburgh, Chair of Greene County Legislature, said “It is most important that they extend this deadline. The first few weeks of our recovery were spent on ensuring public safety, getting people out of their homes, and it’s just now that we’re able to start looking at issues like cleaning up the stream beds.”

Delaware County Board of Supervisors also passed a resolution asking for the permit waiver to be extended. James Eisel, Chair of Delaware County Board of Supervisors, said, “I support Assemblyman Lopez 100 percent. We have tried for years to get in and cleanup the stream beds and it’s always been an uphill battle. It’s time for them to do away with the permits and allow us to clean up. If there’s another storm, without giving us the opportunity to clean up the streams, the results will be catastrophic. How many times can FEMA come bail us out? It’s always the same problems year after year.”

“With the Batavia Kill adjacent to the school and exceeding its banks, the amount and level of sentiment on our fields and complex was incredible. Additionally, with the water levels now a minimum of 3 feet higher than it was, due to sentiment piling up downstream, our storm water drainage system is being compromised and causing reoccurring flooding on our campus and Main Street each day. The only way to solve this problem and restore safety is to clean out the streams. John Wiktorko, Superintendent of Windham-Ashland-Jewett Central School District, said,
“Redirecting this steam and preventing future damage to the community is a cost that local taxpayers simply cannot afford. The amount of resources to do the job properly is significant and not only affects our community but those downstream as well.”

“Franklin and Walton in Delaware County did extensive stream clearing after the flooding in 2006. This work helped protect them from Irene & Lee.”, said Unadilla Highway Superintendent Rodney Renwick. “There needs to be a long-term plan and not just a short term solution. Right now we are simply reacting to what has happened. We need to be proactive to reduce these impacts in the future. Years ago, farmers and other property owners were able to help keep these streams and creeks clear. We need to take a hard look at allowing them and others to be part of a routine stream maintenance program.”

“We need the Governor’s help to protect our communities”, said Assemblyman Lopez. “More time and resources are needed to tackle these streams to protect public health & safety”.


Photo: Emergency reconstruction efforts continue in Pleasant Valley Brook (Schoharie County) as rains continue.

Photos: Unwinding In Estes Park Colorado | Denver Post Media Center — Denver, Colorado, Photos and Video





Photos: Unwinding In Estes Park Colorado | Denver Post Media Center — Denver, Colorado, Photos and Video.

Beautiful and funny sequence of photos by a Denver Post shooter of an angler-critter interaction in Colorado.

Bulldozers in Trout Streams

Over and over again, it happens. Sure, you need to remove debris from streams after big floods. But you don’t need to bulldoze trout streams into ditches — especially when the state DEC expressly requires that stream work “must conform to the pre‐flood depth, width, gradient, and channel character, matching the stable stream channel upstream and downstream of the project area.”

Here’s the Press-Republican’s story from this morning. There’s a good sidebar, too.