Wildwood Outfitters Blog and Fishing Report
Our trout streams are battle hardened and tough, having fought back against everything from mine runoff to invasive species. Trout can seemingly withstand salvo after salvo and continue to flourish. The trouble with all this is that we sometimes forget just how fragile these riparian ecosystems can be. We were reminded of this a few weeks ago in Lancaster County, PA.
"A major fish kill occurred on the Donegal Creek the weekend of April 26th, which affected both wild and stocked trout, and other species of fish and aquatic life. "
Five decades of conservation work and stream improvement vanished on April 26th when "something toxic" flowed downstream killing everything along a 4.5-mile stretch of Donegal Creek. What is the culprit of this watershed disaster? At this time it's unknown. The Department of Environmental Protection has sampled the stream and will continue to monitor for contaminants as well as investigate possible sources. Basically an entire ecosystem was wiped out in the blink of an eye, with no knowledge as to the exact cause. Let that sink in for a moment.
Donegal Creek is something special to anglers both near and far from the quaint Lancaster County farmland. A 2.4-mile fly fishing only section, one of only two in the country at its designation, was one of the crown jewels of the Keystone State. Springs feeding the headwaters meant cool water year-round and perfect habitat for trout, something not lost on the droves of fly fishers who made the trip here.
The stream will eventually come back, as streams tend to do. They take the worst of what humans can do to them and bounce back in spite of tough odds. What's problematic is the glaring reality of how fragile these places can really be. Since the stream flows through farmland, surrounding land usage will be investigated and the cause could come back that the fish kill has something to do with herbicide or pesticide coupled with heavy rains. That's all it takes? A few farms and a heavy rain to erase half a century of conservation work? The point isn't to place blame, but take this as a teachable moment.
Our trout waters are enjoyed by millions of residents and non-residents who travel from afar to enjoy all that is Pennsylvania trout fishing. What we have is an ecotourism goldmine that is as renewable as we choose to make it. Perhaps catastrophes like Donegal Creek need to be taken as opportunities to realize how in peril these watersheds can be, and that they need our constant attention and preservation.
Sure, it's easy to restock streams and shrug our shoulders after a devastating fish kill, but that's not in the spirit of productive conservation stewardship. We should do everything possible to help Donegal Creek return to its former state, but also work to stop the next environmental disaster before it happens. The trout would appreciate it, and so would the anglers.
Thanks to a devastating flood last year, the Donegal Fish and Conservation Association fish hatchery was destroyed and is now in need of intense repair work. Consider checking this conservation group out and helping the cause as they work to restore this great fishery.