Pennsylvania trout club project starting to make real difference

New Florence, Pa. — The Tubmill Trout Club recently completed yet another habitat project in their namesake watershed.

According to club President Lin Gamble, the project involved the construction of 16 habitat devices – improving approximately 1,000 feet of Tubmill Creek.

Tubmill Creek is a Westmoreland County trout stream that flows into the Conemaugh River. It is stocked by the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission as well as the Tubmill Trout Club. The stream is also home to endangered hellbenders, smallmouth bass and some wild brown trout.

The club was formed in 1998, with the goal of repairing the Tubmill Creek watershed that had suffered from years of abuse. This year’s boots-on-the-ground habitat work moves them closer to that goal.

The members’ summer 2018 project on Tubmill Creek included the construction of three modified mudsills, seven framed log deflectors, bank stabilization, the placement of random boulders and building four log cross vanes.

The in-stream work was a joint operation by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission habitat crew and the Tubmill club, which contributed more than 130 man-hours of volunteer labor. The project took five days to complete.

“This is our eighth project on this stream and our club’s 16th project in this watershed, since we began our work in 2008,” Gamble said. “So far these habitat endeavors have improved over 10,000 feet of stream in the watershed benefiting all aquatic life.”

Greg Schaetzle, a watershed manager with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, noted that this and previous Tubmill Creek watershed projects have protected the stream banks and will prevent tons of sediment from entering the stream.

The increased water velocity created by the devices will flush out sediment already present and improve the habitat for fish and other aquatic life. Recent heavy rain and subsequent high water have created deep pools near many of the devices.

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy takes pre- and post-project samples of the watershed’s macro-invertebrates. Their samples of mayflies, stoneflies, caddisflies and other aquatic organisms are used to measure the improvement of stream habitat.

Partners for the project include the Dominion Energy Foundation, Laurel Highlands Mini Grant Program, Robindale Energy Co., the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission, Pennsylvania Growing Greener, and the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds.

With favorable weather, the $36,500 project took five days to complete.

Many more people fish these stream sections as compared to just a few years ago, Gamble noted, crediting the improved habitat.

“Our projects have been good for the stream, anglers, the watershed and the economy of the region,” Gamble said.

The stream habitat work will continue through at least 2021, according to Gamble. With funding, next year’s project will improve another 1,500 feet of Hendricks Creek, a tributary to Tubmill Creek.

“With multiple back-to-back projects, we are now getting long lengths of stream that are good to fish,” he said.

“Instead of two spots for fishermen, we now have many good places for people to fish,” said Gamble. “Our work is starting to make a real difference.”

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