Habitat improvement project on the Conococheague Creek benefits brook trout in Michaux State Forest
When the 53-acre Birch Run Reservoir in the Michaux State Forest was breeched in 2005, it left behind a stream bed of the Conococheague Creek that had been submerged for years. As a result, the stream running the length of the old reservoir was about a foot deep with little in the way of cover and habitat for the colorful native brook trout that thrive there.
Forester Phil Bietsch decided to make things more hospitable for the trout and began work developing a plan for this high priority stream restoration last fall. Phil is a native of the area and has had a long time interest in the brook trout streams of the Michaux.
“This section of the Conococheague has very high quality water and naturally reproducing brook trout, but the section of the tributary in the abandoned reservoir had very little in the way of cover and productive habitat” Bietsch said.
Working with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Adams County Trout Unlimited, Cumberland Valley Trout Unlimited and Falling Spring Trout Unlimited as well as the Nature Conservancy he had a plan prepared by January 2013.
During the second week of July this summer the first phase of the plan was implemented. Habitat improvements to the stream included plunge pools, log vanes, cross vanes, J-hooks and under-cut banks. The dug-out pools in particular provide additional depth which means colder and more oxygenated water for the trout. The improvements were carried out by Gleim Excavating which specializes in in-stream restoration projects as well as by volunteers from Trout Unlimited.
The results were immediate and dramatic according to District Forester Roy Brubaker.
“It was amazing how quickly the brook trout found the deeper pools. The day after the work was completed we walked along it and could already see little schools of trout hanging out right where they were supposed to be” Brubaker said.
The second phase of the project is to be carried out next July and may be funded by South Mountain Partnership grants. Numerous efforts have already been made to get the reservoir reforested and gradually these plantings are achieving success as well. For more information about the Michaux State Forest, visit here.
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