‘Trout Unlimited’ taking stock in Owego Creek; Collaborative effort to boost trout population

‘Trout Unlimited’ taking stock in Owego Creek; Collaborative effort to boost trout populationThe confluence of the Owego Creek and the Susquehanna River in Owego, N.Y. This photo was taken Wednesday when water levels were rising from runoff and rain, and a flood watch was still in effect. (Photo by Wendy Post)

By Wendy Post —

On April 1, Trout season opened up in New York State and runs through Oct. 15, with Owego Creek being a focus for “Trout Unlimited” for the next few years. The Owego Creek watershed was chosen by “Trout Unlimited”, according to Allen Peterson, volunteer regional coordinator for the local chapter, as a priority watershed based upon the size, quality, and interconnectedness of its brook trout habitats.

According to Peterson, before 2010 the brook and brown trout were reported to be abundant with catch rates of up to five to ten fish per hour documented in prime habitats. After that, a steep, more than 50% decline in the population was noted. The populations of both species remain low, with a catch rate of one to two per hour now being reported.

Collectively, with Tioga County Soil and Water Conservation and the Department of Environmental Conservation, bringing the trout numbers back and managing and maintaining the watershed is at the forefront of their current efforts.

‘Trout Unlimited’ taking stock in Owego Creek; Collaborative effort to boost trout population

Pictured is a small arm of the Owego Creek near Route 38 in the Town of Newark Valley. Provided photo.

“Our goal is to manage the Owego Creek system to withstand floods and droughts,” said Peterson, adding, “The recent weather has affected things, so now we want to help manage things and bring the trout population back.”

“Trout Unlimited”, a nationwide, non-profit conservation organization dedicated to conserving and protecting trout and the waters they live in, views the Owego Creek watershed as a trout stronghold, as well as an important system for trout in Western New York.

With over 300,000 members nationally, and 26 chapters throughout New York, the local Al Hazzard Chapter covers Broome and Tioga Counties. According to the “Trout Unlimited” Chapter there are two kinds of trout in Owego Creek, Brook Trout and Brown Trout. The population largely affected, according to Peterson, concerns Brook Trout.

To assist with these efforts and conservation, the local chapter of “Trout Unlimited” is encouraging anglers to consider catch and release of the Brook Trout for the next few years. This, combined with the ongoing efforts of Tioga County Soil and Water and the DEC, will help protect the Owego Creek for years to come.

‘Trout Unlimited’ taking stock in Owego Creek; Collaborative effort to boost trout population

Pictured is a headwater tributary in the Town of Candor off Route 96B. Provided photo.

Peterson noted that this, along with efforts this spring to plant 3,515 trees and shrubs in Tioga County over 20 acres, is all part of the conservation activities taking place throughout the Tioga County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Also joining to help spread the word and join in conservation efforts are the Tioga County Anglers, a non-profit dedicated to revitalizing our local fishery, and ensuring a sustainable and vibrant aquatic ecosystem for generations to come. Their mission, according to their Facebook Page, is to protect and enhance the natural beauty and biodiversity of our waters.

“Trout Unlimited” will work with local partners to better understand the trout populations, spawning habitats, threats and opportunities in the Owego Creek watershed and continue the implementation of survey, management and improvement projects that reconnect, restore and sustain brook and brown trout populations.

The Owego / Catatonk Creek watershed lies primarily in Tioga County, with important spawning headwaters also in Tompkins and Cortland Counties. Although the Owego and Catatonk systems are generally thought of as separate, they in fact join above the Village of Owego, thus making the Catatonk a tributary of the Owego. This is a critical distinction for trout management because some of the best trout spawning areas are in the headwaters of the Catatonk, according to Peterson.

‘Trout Unlimited’ taking stock in Owego Creek; Collaborative effort to boost trout population

Pictured is the Owego Creek at Park Settlement Road in Owego. The picture is of a recently completed bank stabilization project by the Tioga County Soil and Water Conservation District. Provided photo.

“Trout Unlimited”, along with others partnered in the effort, will act to restore connectivity to maximize the ability of trout to migrate seasonally, especially to spawning reaches and cold-water refuges and to complete other projects that enhance spawning, flood and drought resiliency to restore the wild brook and brown trout population to their pre-flood and pre-drought level of abundance.

They will identify critical spawning tributaries and cold-water refuges, conduct electro-fishing surveys and identify culverts and dams that are barriers to trout movements and spawning.

They will work with highway departments to replace barrier culverts with larger structures and study the possible modification of dams to allow fish passage.

As for habitat, they will stabilize eroding banks and add woody material to over-wide, shallow downstream reaches, replace or install pool diggers at priority locations and consider the creation of cold, groundwater ponds that are connected to the stream for summertime refuge. Manage key spawning areas and consider reintroduction of brook trout to suitable unoccupied tributaries that were cut off by dam or culvert barriers.

To assist, “Trout Unlimited” is encouraging the release of all brook trout to help the population recover.

Finally, they are asking everyone to spread the word that things are happening on Owego Creek and to consider joining “Trout Unlimited” to meet and work with other local anglers in protecting, conserving and enjoying the county’s trout resources.

You can find the Al Hazzard Chapter on Facebook at or at www.alhazzardtu.org, or nationally at www.TU.org.

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