Trout are returning to Deer Creek, reported Watershed Specialist Kelly Williams at yesterday’s meeting of the Clearfield County Conservation District Board of Directors meeting.
The Clearfield County Conservation District recently constructed treatment ponds on the stream using an $883,000 federal Environmental Protection Agency Grant it received in 2016.
Last month, to see how the new treatment facilities are working, Williams said the conservation district and Trout Unlimited conducted an electric fishing survey on the mouth of the stream. An electric fishing survey is where the fish are stunned using electricity and catalogued and counted to determine the size of the fish and their populations.
“And we found trout!” Williams said.
She said they found three wild brook trout, and the stream qualifies for submission to the state Fish and Boat Commission to have the stream listed as Wild Trout Waters. Williams said they also found two brown trout.
She said they will probably do the survey again next year to see how the trout population progresses.
Williams said although the water in Deer Creek still looks orange during low flows, the water quality has improved significantly since the treatment system installed.
She said the pH at the mouth of the stream is now between six and seven, prior to the treatment ponds the pH was between three and four.
“That’s a humongous difference,” Williams said.
PH measures the level of acidity of a fluid, the lower the pH the higher the acidity with a pH of seven being neutral.
She said next spring they are planning to do a macro-invertebrate survey to see if the bug population is rebounding at the stream.
Williams also reported that the Conservation District is also building a treatment facility on Kratzer Run that is scheduled to be completed next year and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission are conducting a study on the stream to see how a fishery responds to restoration.
She said there are brook trout in Bilger and Brown trout in Kratzer that were stocked, and the SRBC wants to see what happens to the brown trout as the water quality improves. They have been conducting the study for a few years now and what they are finding as the stream quality increases is the brown trout are moving further and further upstream.
Williams said there aren’t many bugs along the stream, so researchers believe the large brown trout are eating the brook trout to survive upstream. She said brown trout can be wild and reproduce, but brook trout is the area’s native trout species.
The SRBC has also tagged 180 fish in the stream so when they recapture the fish during fish shocking surveys, the tag can be scanned into the computer and they can determine how much the fish has grown and how far it has traveled.
She said they tried to use automatic readers which is similar to an EasyPass system used on highways where they would be able to scan the fish as they swim by and determine where the fish are traveling, but she said the scanners were getting vandalized, stolen and were damaged by high waters and falling trees, so they went back to fish shocking, Williams said.
Williams added that the orange color in the stream is a result of the legacy acid mine drainage and the dissolved iron dropping out of the water and settling on the stream bed. She said over time, the orange will fade away.
Williams also reported the conservation district received a $3,000 grant from the Western PA Nature Conservancy to place canoe/kayak access on Chest Creek in Westover.
For the canoe/kayak access, they chose a location that had an eroding bank and installed large rocks as steps to the stream, mulch and seeds. It also makes a good spot for fishing, Williams said. She said the canoe/kayak access is located near the park upstream from the bridge.