Watershed Health Resonates Loudest in the Spring

For many, spring represents welcome change and a fresh start. To some, spring also represents trout fishing! For trout such as brook trout and brown trout, the onset of the first aquatic insect hatch marks the beginning of a critical time where their priority is focused on feeding to support high energy demands for survival and growth through the summer and eventual fall spawning.  Spring water temperatures are relatively cold and consistent which means a trout’s thermal habitat preferences for cold water are not constrained during this time. This enables voracious roaming throughout navigable reaches for food ‘while the getting is good’.

A trout’s diet potential is a direct consequence of the water quality of the stream.  Mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies are invertebrates indicative of healthy streams and are the seen as the ‘ribeye of the river’ to trout as they provide a high-energy feeding opportunity for trout as compared to oligiochaetes (worms) or chironomids (midge larvae) that can succeed in streams with impacted water quality. The productive capacity of the stream to produce higher densities of desirable aquatic insects is also directly related to energy inputs from the riparian areas. For healthy trout waters, this poses potentially their greatest strength, as the bounty of bugs supports the trout during their time of need which then mitigates against other factors such as introduced species and climate change, increasing the streams resiliency. The importance of watershed health resonates loudest in spring.

Anglers learned long ago that matching not only the type of hatch, but timing of hatch maximized their success. Hence, the traditional forays by anglers into trout creeks each spring that carry both memories of fishes past and dreams of fishes yet to be. The village of Millbrook is no stranger to spring trout fishing. However, spring in the Baxter Creek today provides a much broader range of meaning to those who come into its reaches and catchments. For childeren, the Lions Club fishing derby at the Mill pond may represent their first trout fishing experience. For long-time residents, the sounds of the Baxter babbling may represent one of the many intangible values provided by the creek that kept them in the village for all these years. For new residents, spring on Baxter Creek may represent unexplored opportunities to connect with nature and enhance their sense of belonging in the community and the broader natural world. For everyone in the community, Baxter Creek unites us and brings a collective responsibility to be aware of our interactions with the watershed.

The newly established Millbrook Chapter of Trout Unlimited heeds the call for heightened awareness and advocacy for watershed health for Baxter and Squirrel Creeks. There are many projects in the works, all of which are aimed to support a healthy watershed. If you are interested in getting involved at any capacity, feel free to attend one of our monthly meetings – check us out on Facebook or email us at tumillbrookchapter@gmail.com. We look forward to seeing you!

By Adam Challice, Trout Unlimited

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