Healthy Habitat For Trout And All Of Us

With this cast, the lure is right on target and, after one quick turn of the reel handle, there is that tell-tale heavy swirl and a splash on the water’s surface. Suddenly, I’m watching this speckled denizen of Clear Creek leap into the air furiously, shaking his head and casting droplets of water all around me. As I feel the thumping of the pole and struggle to gain position and leverage on this magnificent fish, I think to myself, “Is there anyone on this precious planet more fortunate than I?”

I work this fish toward shore with care and patience and finally wet my hands, grasp him gently and release him back into the creek. I watch as he quickly becomes a shadow disappearing under a far bank of roots and dappled shade.

Adrenaline wanes, and my heartbeat slows as I look upstream to the next bend and the next big Black Willow that overhangs a deep pool at the bottom of a swirling wash of currents. Another challenge awaits me at each new hiding place where habitat is perfectly suited to the needs of the wary and elusive Brown Trout.

I am David Anderson, a retired Jamestown school teacher who now works part-time for the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy.

My passion for inland Brown Trout fishing has led me up the entire length of almost every fishable Brown Trout stream in Chautauqua County. This same passion for fishing Brown Trout has fueled my efforts to restore the habitat necessary for these and other species of trout to not only survive but thrive in Chautauqua County.

The success of these trout is inextricably linked with our own fortunes as residents of this County. Clean and clear creeks, whose waters are cool and shaded, directly benefit each and every one of us in that we would no longer have thousands of tons of soil and nutrients pouring into Chautauqua Lake each year. The “pea soup” that we have seen in the lake this August and September would be but a distant memory. Stream erosion and nutrient runoff is just one major cause of our “pea soup” predicament, but it’s the cause that I focus on as I work with concerned landowners on the many streams in the lake’s surrounding watershed.

Part of my job is to connect those landowners with state and federal programs that can assist them in restoring our watershed to a healthy condition. For example, one of the landowners I am working with owns property along Goose Creek and has many acres of wetland along the creek. The federal government will pay him to set aside this land in a wetland reserve program. Now crucial habitat that filters nutrients and trays sediment long before it reaches Chautauqua Lake will be protected.

Another federal program helps pay for fencing and stream crossings to prevent cattle from degrading stream banks and critical vegetation in the creekside riparian buffer zone. We have one district conservationist who works for the Natural Resources Conservation Service at the Frank Bratt Agricultural Center. His reach is much broader if I can recruit willing watershed landowners to apply for the conservation grants that are available in any given year. His agency prioritizes landowner applications and awards grants based on shared goals and the unique needs of our local watershed. Then he and his team design and implement the projects that have been awarded. It’s also our job at CWC to make the public aware that there’s a lot going on behind the scenes to significantly impact and improve the condition of our lake.

The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a local nonprofit organization that is dedicated to preserving and enhancing the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. For more information, call 664-2166 or visit www.chautauquawatershed.org or www.facebook.com/chautauquawatershed.