Monthly Archives: February 2008
These are probably some of the last fishing photos I ever took with a point and shoot 35mm. When I first got that 2.0 megapixel digital camera I thought I was the king.
Lee had a lucky fishing hat, it was an M&M’s hat. Stupid looking thing and that pleased him immensely. These were the last shots of that hat. The day these photos were taken, the hat accidentally came from upon his head to drop into the hallowed and fecal choloform filled waters of “The Sewer”. Lee shed a tear as he watched his hat float away. I suppose he could’ve reached in and grabbed the hat and replaced it to his head, but would you rub poo on your head as a measure of luck? No, he didn’t either.
A series of 3 photos in succession…
In the west, what they call small stream fishing often equates to what we think of as big creeks. Due to lower elevations eastern trout are sequestered to high elevation creeks, runs and – a classic descriptor that I like – licks. Rhododendron grows thick and graceful overhead casting becomes a nightmare. The fish are spooked easily and the concept of ‘dapping’ is laughable in most cases as if you could get that close without putting down a pool you’d be doing well. Slow action rods that load easily with minimum line, roll cast well and make accurate casts under brush are a useful tool. Short 5 foot to 7 foot rods are not toys here, they are musts. Often, an 8′ rod would not even be able to be held in any direction without crashing into the branches. I love small streams.
The state fish is the native brook trout. Many WV trout anglers can’t tell the difference between a brook trout and a brown trout, particularly when it is a small natural reproduction fish…they kill it anyway. Native brookies are an underrated gem. They’ve been here since the ice ages despite our best efforts to run them out. They are much less resilient to pollution than other salmonids and therefore their numbers have dropped off severely. The Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture stated in 2006 that less than 1% of WV’s historic brook trout population numbers are intact. To steal a phrase from the ‘Friends of Coal’ – Let’s Keep Up the Momentum WV!
Case in point – the following photo is from a native brook trout stream in Nicholas County that was uncuriously removed from the original Tier 2.5 list due to ‘planned coal permit or ongoing’. In other words, the coal company wanted to damage the stream so they could get their coal and the state let ’em. At present, the stream is wonderful despite the illegal dumps littering the banks of this beautiful stream. I’m still optimistic that somehow policy makers will get a clue and this stream will be as good or better when I take my grandkids here someday.
Salvelinus fontinalis – The only native trout to WV, a remnant
Ever listen to PRI’s ‘Living On Earth’? Or for that matter any countless earth friendly broadcasts on public radio or the vast number of television shows. Carbon footprint is the buzzword on everyone’s lips now. Shoot, even home makeover shows on HGTV talk about reducing carbon footprints even though some of those shows are sorely misguided (i.e., earth friendly paint on the walls of a media room housing big screen tv’s, stereo’s, etc.). The PRI show is one that really presses the issue. They had a recent interview with a European scientist studying the methane release (farts) of cattle and how destructive that was to the environment and what can be done about it. Did you know that grain fed cattle produce vastly more methane than grass fed cattle? Does this matter to a southern WV coal miner? Ah, now that’s a concept worth visiting!
It is no secret to us living here in Wild & Wonderful, West By God, The Mountain State that while a giant tourism industry is firmly linked to clean water, vast forests and beautiful mountains the public policy makers tend to be the most environmentally unconscious group this side of Beijing. Let’s take a good look: In 2001 legislators passed Antidegradation law that compromised the Clean Water Act to allow 10% point source degradation on waters of special concern – wild trout streams, state park waters – as opposed to the national standard of ‘Tier 3.0 No Degradation’. After seven years of trying, they are currently slithering around under the gold dome in Charleston trying to pass a watered down implementation of that rule that would only protect less than 108 of the 800+ wild trout streams in WV. A completely arbitrary act performed at the will of the Farm Bureau, Forestry Association (both of which are not regulated by this act despite their horrible documented impacts to these streams), the Chamber of Commerce, the Coal Association and a vast number of ‘dirty water’ interests. Even the DEP removed a number of streams from the initial 444 Tier 2.5 list due to arbitrary “dirty water” interests such as “planned or ongoing development”, “coal permit issued” or similar matters. A classic example is Big Spring Fork of Elk River which contains all 3 species of reproducing trout in WV – browns, rainbows and native brook trout (the supposed official state fish) – which was removed from protection so that the Public Service Commission could proceed with their imminent domain taking of the Sharp’s Farm lying on the Karst spring of said Big Spring Fork and build a waste treatment plant under the interest of the corporate behemoth Snowshoe Mountain Resort.
Southern WV might possibly be the most littered region of the entire United States, yet legislators will not pass a Bottle Bill that would encourage recycling due to grocery store interests. Mountain top removal mining dumps overburden into streams burying them in the process. The ‘Friends of Coal’ spends millions of dollars spreading lies about this practice that it does not environmental harm and legislators are wrapped nicely around their little fingers. The Dept. of Environmental Protection who is operated under a Governor appointed secretary has a sordid history of lax enforcement of the coal industry. Particularly when you compare enforcement of that industry to other industries. The Corps of Engineers, whose 1999 adopted prayer includes the phrases “making rough places smooth, crooked ways straight and . . . our calculations accurate” rubber stamps any permit the coal industry wants pushed through and it has often taken federal judges to bridle this out of control agency.
Take all of that and then consider the top-down or bottom-up theories. The top down goes like this, our elected officials don’t give a hoot about the environment if they believe it will cut into business profit margins and therefore affect employment levels (which are quite poor, but likely moreso due to a terrible public education, poor infrastructure, and so on, but I digress). So if they don’t value our fish and wildlife habitat, why should we? Think like this: If you are a coal miner making $50,000/year to peel, maim and obliterate all living things in order to procure a mineral and your company makes a large profit, one that you are vested in through stock dividends, by barely meeting lax reclamation standards and never going above and beyond those standards – then you probably don’t give much of a care when you chuck that McDonald’s bag out the window, shove that pickup truck load of old washing machines and Mad Dog bottles over into a trout stream or any other “small change” environmental stewardship. Would you care? If you worked in a factory killing dogs all day you probably wouldn’t come home and snuggle up to your dog and show much affection. The carbon footprint in the WV coalfields makes attempts by California yuppies to green up their kitchens seem laughable. Imagine great big inefficient Yuke dumptrucks, coal trains, parking lots filled with Ford F350’s with ‘Git R Done’ and ‘Friends of Coal’ stickers plastered on the backglass; shoot the thick layer of coal dust covering residences, businesses and streets alone makes PRI’s show seem silly. By silly, I mean do these folks have any concept of what goes on outside of their $600,000 two bedroom lofts, er, bubbles? Good for them, fretting about the manufacturing of their toothpaste and making green choices about what deodorant to wear, but for God’s sakes come out of the shell and take a look. Devise a little better strategy.
But what about bottom up theory? Maybe it is the poorly educated run amuck that feeds the system of hierarchy. Man, that makes the thought of correcting the system even more complex doesn’t it?
Think you’ve got it bad? This photo taken on a southern WV wild rainbow trout stream…Oh, by the way, this stream won’t see any protection from Antidegradation law either. Suprised?
Ferns are fascinating. They have enormous numbers of chromosome pairs which makes for really extensive phenotypic plasticity – or ability to express a variety of phenotypes based on their environment at the onset of development. Speciation is really complex in fern ecology.
Morning sun peaks over the mountain as Chris Shockey swings through a pool.
Going to post some random photos every few days to keep fresh stuff on the blog. Chris Shockey and I spent the last two days in central WV and in addition to the WVAngler.com dinner we spent some time on some brook trout streams. Since my point and shoot digital camera shots are not as good as those on the SLR, I’ll probably start posting the non-SLR shots here instead of on any messageboards.
Little Black Stonefly (Capnia vernalis)
Still life – taken on a private stream in northern VA on Feb. 20th
February in WV has been lightly affected by global warming this year. I’ve cancelled several outings due to weather issues. I did move around the eastern panhandle a little bit this week and did some fishing with Eric Ohlmstead (the gratefulphisher) which was in reality a couple of hours on a small northern Virginia spring creek. Planning to attend the wvangler.com banquet tomorrow and perhaps fish on Sunday.
Wanted to update folks on some projects in the works regarding brook trout in WV. It looks like some tangible momentum is getting going with Back The Brookie. On behalf of Lee Orr, Chris Shockey and others involved with BTB I appreciate everyone’s patience.
Mountaineer Chapter of TU was recently approved for an additional $10,000 for work on Big Run in the South Branch watershed (Home Waters Initiative). This is actually breaking news and the official details are not released yet.
P. Pendleton Kennedy Chapter of TU was also approved for $10,000 for brook trout work in the Home Waters Initiative – Potomac Headwaters
Kanawha Valley Chapter of TU has been working with Meade-Westvaco and WVDNR to formulate some habitat work on Big Laurel of Cherry River in Nicholas County. This is private land owned by Westvaco and that company is wishing to put some money into habitat improvement for the native brook trout in that greater watershed. WVU researchers are evaluating the limestone needs for these waters and the DNR will begin liming them soon. In addition, research is being done for the addition of large woody debris (LWD) that helps with holding cover as well as introduction of organics for improving benthic life (primary productivity). There is some concern about using riparian LWD (dropping trees near stream canopy for LWD purposes, which is counterproductive) so details are still being ironed out. KVCTU/Back The Brookie will likely be assisting in some mid-week stream surveys possibly including electrofishing and possibly some labor with habitat work. Longterm access for anglers is something that KVCTU has brought up, it is still in the works.
US Forest Service has plans for large scale habitat work in the Williams River watershed including some tree planting on Little Laurel, improving fish passage on Black Mountain Run (culvert) and some other projects. Back The Brookie is monitoring approval and initiation of these projects.
Blennerhasset Chapter of TU in conjunction with USFS and WVDNR has donated funds to gravel an old forest service road in Greenbrier County for a tributary of Anthony’s Creek. This creek is slated for limestone treatment for acidity and the brush on the old road is being cleared currently by Dept. of Corrections inmates before graveling and then liming can begin.
Chesepeake Energy has expressed the possibility of funding some work for brook trout habitat in their working jurisdictions. KVCTU has been actively looking for viable projects to present for funding. I will personally be canvasing some streams in their areas for potential projects in the next few weeks. Possibilities include an open dump cleanup on a tributary of the Middle Fork River, limestone funding, Trout In The Classroom funding, or riparian tree planting activity. Initially we wanted to work for reconnection via culvert removal, but it appears that the funding will not be sufficient for this purpose. We are still working on that.
KVCTU Habitat Team has also gained extra annual funding for additional limestone fines funding. We are discussing that with WVDNR to designate which stream to fund currently.
The USFS has a fencing project on a grazing alotment along a native brook trout stream in the Elk River watershed ready for funding. I will be meeting with Mike Owen of the USFS very soon to tour the area.
As you can see, there are a few irons in the fire. Hopefully we can use these projects to stir up even more enthusiasm for native brook trout conservation amongst our own and particularly in the local arenas. If you have an idea for a Back The Brookie project in WV, please pass it along to me anytime for discussion. Multiple funding sources are available.