Wednesday Wake-Up Call 10.10.18


The plan to build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee is one step closer to reality.
Graphic via the Everglades Foundation

Last month, we asked you to take action by emailing your Senators to urge them to pass S. 2800 (99-1), America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, which includes provisions authorizing the Everglades Reservoir. This morning, the bill was . . .


Welcome to the latest installment of the Wednesday Wake-Up Call, a weekly roundup of the most pressing conservation issues important to anglers. Working with our friends at Trout Unlimited, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, The Everglades Foundation, Captains for Clean Water, Bullsugar.org, and Conservation Hawks (among others), we’ll make sure you’ve got the information you need to understand the issues and form solid opinions.

If you know of an important issue–whether it’s national or local–that anglers should be paying attention to, comment below, and we’ll check it out!

1. Senate Passes Reservoir Bill


The plan to build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee is one step closer to reality.
Graphic via the Everglades Foundation

Last month, we asked you to take action by emailing your Senators to urge them to pass S. 2800 (99-1), America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, which includes provisions authorizing the Everglades Reservoir. This morning, the bill was approved by a vote of 99-1 and now goes to the desk of the President to be signed. As soon as the ink is dry, state and federal planners can get to work on making sure it represents a big step toward the ultimate goal of restoring the Everglades and stopping the damaging flows of polluted water to Florida’s southern coasts.

As with most such environmental victories, however, there is still work to be done. As we celebrate the passage of S. 2800, we must work even harder to ensure that its promise is fulfilled. As Erik Eikenberg, CEO of The Everglades Foundation, said, “We must redouble our efforts to ensure that funding commitments are kept, and we must insist that the Reservoir be built in four years, not ten.”

Thanks to all of you who have joined Orvis–along with The Everglades Foundation, Captain for Clean Water, and Bullsugar.org–in this ongoing battle to restore Florida’s natural flow of Fresh water through the River of Grass.

2. The Land and Water Conservation Fund Has Expired

On September 30th, 2018, The Land and Water Conservation Fund expired. You’ve never heard of it? Here’s a synopsis from the LWCF Coalition website:

Created by Congress in 1964, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was a bipartisan commitment to safeguard natural areas, water resources and our cultural heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans. National parks like Rocky Mountain, the Grand Canyon, and the Great Smoky Mountains, as well as national wildlife refuges, national forests, rivers and lakes, community parks, trails, and ball fields in every one of our 50 states were set aside for Americans to enjoy thanks to federal funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

Funding for the program has been a perennial problem, as Congress has diverted dollars to non-conservation purposes. The fund expired because legislators could not agree on how money should be allocated or spent.

Click here for the full story in Outside.

Click here for the LWCF Coalition website to learn more and to find out what LWCF has done for your home state.

3. Study Shows that Hatchery and Wild Brook Trout Rarely Breed


The 37-page report is already generating controversy.
Photo by SHANNON WHITE / PENN STATE

In waters where wild trout stocks are supplemented by hatchery fish, anglers worry that the stockers will dilute the gene pool, but a recent study in Pennsylvania suggests that the fear is unfounded:

Despite many decades of annual brook trout stocking in one northcentral Pennsylvania watershed, the wild brook trout populations show few genes from hatchery fish, according to researchers who genotyped about 2,000 brook trout in Loyalsock Creek watershed, a 500-square-mile drainage in Lycoming and Sullivan counties celebrated by anglers for its trout fishing.

Click here for the full story on Penn State News.

4. Montanans Urged to Vote YES on I-186.


A ballot initative in Montana seeks to ensure that all future mines make plans to clean up their own messes. Orvis vice chairman Dave Perkins, who lives in Wolf Creek, explains why a YES vote is important for anyone who values clean water.

Click here to visit yeson186.org to learn more.

Vote to Protect Clean Water and Ensure Responsible Mining in Montana

On Election Day, November 6, Montanans will have the opportunity to make a powerful statement in support of clean water by voting YES on I-186, known as the Requirements for Permits and Reclamation Plans of New Hard Rock Mines Initiative. If . . .

On Election Day, November 6, Montanans will have the opportunity to make a powerful statement in support of clean water by voting YES on I-186, known as the Requirements for Permits and Reclamation Plans of New Hard Rock Mines Initiative. If passed, the initiative will hold mining companies accountable and ensure that they don’t leave behind toxic messes for others to clean up.

When mines go bankrupt without adequate reclamation plans, Montana taxpayers are often left holding the bag–shelling out millions of dollars to clean up acids and heavy metals left behind by modern irresponsible mining practices. Toxic pollution from mines poses a threat to drinking water and public health, damages fisheries, and requires treatment for generations.

In the video above, Orvis’s vice chairman, Dave Perkins, explains why he supports I-186, walking the walk of Orvis’s conservation ethic. Dave lives in Wolf Creek, near the famed Missouri River, and he is passionate about protecting water quality. Join Dave by voting YES on I-186.

Click here to learn more about I-186

5 Rivers Odyssey, Part II: A Bounty in Bristol Bay

Written by: Anthony Ortiz


Anthony Ortiz with a gorgeous, streamer-eating Dolly Varden on the Koktuli River.
Photos courtesy Trout Unlimited

A sleepless night, two flights, and one hell of a portage later, I found myself on the Koktuli River in the heart of Bristol Bay. We inflated our rafts and prepared for the eight-day float trip that was . . .

Written by: Anthony Ortiz


Anthony Ortiz with a gorgeous, streamer-eating Dolly Varden on the Koktuli River.
Photos courtesy Trout Unlimited

Editor’s note: In July, Trout Unlimited sent four of their brightest college club leaders in the TU Costa 5 Rivers Program to explore the home of the world’s largest runs of wild salmon: Alaska. The students explored the Kenai Peninsula, Bristol Bay, and the Tongass National Forest in pursuit of the five species of Pacific salmon and other native salmonids that call Alaska home. Their missions was to unearth, document, and share the challenges facing the largest salmon fisheries in the world. They also went fishing, and we will share some of their stories over the next few weeks.


The eight-day float trip focused on the abundance of life in the river system.

A sleepless night, two flights, and one hell of a portage later, I found myself on the Koktuli River in the heart of Bristol Bay. We inflated our rafts and prepared for the eight-day float trip that was ahead. After we strapped down our gear and put on our waders, we slid into a back channel and pushed the rafts over beaver dams, bushes, and logs in our way to get to the main channel of the river. From my perch on the raft, I saw camo-colored submarines and bright red torpedoes in the water. My first glimpse of wild salmon in Bristol Bay! Everywhere I looked, I could see king, sockeye, and chum salmon making their journey upstream to spawn. Opportunistic Dolly Varden, grayling, and rainbow trout followed the salmon upriver with hopes of gorging themselves on loose salmon eggs.


The chum salmon is easy to identify by the slashes of color on its sides.

Before the trip, I expected the fishing to consist mostly of throwing beads, which mimicked the loose salmon eggs. To my surprise, we caught fish on everything we threw. I watched graylings’ colorful dorsal fins come entirely out of the water to chase down any dry that hit the water. I couldn’t believe the aerial show that I was witnessing; some fish jumped out of the water and crushed the dry as they came back down into the water. Dry-fly fishing in Alaska was amazing, but my favorite thing to do was throw streamers. For me, true exhilaration is stripping in a big streamer and feeling a voracious smash on the end of the line. Nothing was as exciting as tying on large pink-and-purple Dolly Llama and tossing it into a pool with the possibility of catching kings, chum, and sockeye. Sometimes, Dollies and rainbows would even take the large streamers.


The Dolly Llama streamer was Anthony’s favorite pattern.

The float trip on the Koktuli river was a slice of heaven. It was an escape to truly untouched wilderness. Connecting with the fish that keep the entire system thriving was an experience that I’ll never forget. Bristol Bay is the epitome of a truly wild ecosystem, and we have the chance to keep it wild. Many places in the lower 48 no longer have the chance to prevent destruction of watersheds, and people are now focusing on restoration because damage has already been done. We need to work to conserve salmon habitat while salmon runs are still strong to keep these unique ecosystems thriving. Salmon are vital to Bristol Bay’s economy, ecosystems, and cultures, and I’ll never forget my experience with these powerful creatures on the end of my line.


Fellow Odyssey member Kylie Hogan shows of a chum of her own.

Anthony Ortiz is a junior at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where he studies business and is a member of the fly-fishing club. After graduation, he hopes to start his own business with a focus on sustainability. I have Trout Unlimited and fly fishing to thank for my goals.


Interested brown bears looked on curiously as the flotilla headed downstream.

Protection from sun, wind, water, and bugs is important in the Alaskan bush.

Wednesday Wake-Up Call 09.12.18: Action Alert!


Protecting the Everglades by restoring the southward flow of water is vital to the region’s health.
Photo by Mac Stone

The House Votes on the Everglades Reservoir Tomorrow! We have been fighting for two years to gain funding for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to . . .


The plan to build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee just needs congressional approval.
Graphic via the Everglades Foundation

The House Votes on the Everglades Reservoir Tomorrow!

We have been fighting for two years to gain funding for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to hold runoff that is currently being discharged down the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers. The Everglades Reservoir will cut toxic algae-causing discharges by more than half.

The federal approval for the Everglades Reservoir is pending right now in the Senate as S. 2800, “America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, and in the House of Representatives as the 2018 Water Resources Development Act – WRDA.


Protecting the Everglades by restoring the southward flow of water is vital to the region’s health.
Photo by Mac Stone

The Washington pundits and experts tell us not to worry, that S. 2800 and WRDA should be approved. But we can’t afford to take anything for granted: our lawmakers, candidates and President Trump need to hear from us, loud and clear: “Build the Everglades Reservoir.”

Simply text the word “WATER” to 52886 or click here TODAY, and you’ll be sent to an online form that allows you to easily e-mail your Senators and Representative and urge them to PASS the 2018 Water Bill and BUILD the Everglades Reservoir. Please do it today!

Click here to Take Action!

Wednesday Wake-Up Call 09.12.18: Action Alert!


Protecting the Everglades by restoring the southward flow of water is vital to the region’s health.
Photo by Mac Stone

The House Votes on the Everglades Reservoir Tomorrow! We have been fighting for two years to gain funding for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to . . .


The plan to build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee just needs congressional approval.
Graphic via the Everglades Foundation

The House Votes on the Everglades Reservoir Tomorrow!

We have been fighting for two years to gain funding for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to hold runoff that is currently being discharged down the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers. The Everglades Reservoir will cut toxic algae-causing discharges by more than half.

The federal approval for the Everglades Reservoir is pending right now in the Senate as S. 2800, “America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, and in the House of Representatives as the 2018 Water Resources Development Act – WRDA.


Protecting the Everglades by restoring the southward flow of water is vital to the region’s health.
Photo by Mac Stone

The Washington pundits and experts tell us not to worry, that S. 2800 and WRDA should be approved. But we can’t afford to take anything for granted: our lawmakers, candidates and President Trump need to hear from us, loud and clear: “Build the Everglades Reservoir.”

Simply text the word “WATER” to 52886 or click here TODAY, and you’ll be sent to an online form that allows you to easily e-mail your Senators and Representative and urge them to PASS the 2018 Water Bill and BUILD the Everglades Reservoir. Please do it today!

Click here to Take Action!

5 Rivers Odyssey, Part I: Doubt on the Water

Written by: Libby Glaser


Libby Glaser casts for big rainbows on Alaska’s  Kenai River.
Photo courtesy of Tyler Gagat, USFS

The 5 Rivers Odyssey crew spent our first two days on the Russian River, volunteering with Kenai Peninsula Stream Watch, a U.S. Forest Service (USFS) program that manages salmon habitat . . .

Written by: Libby Glaser


Libby Glaser casts for big rainbows on Alaska’s  Kenai River.
Photo courtesy of Tyler Gagat, USFS

Editor’s note: In July, Trout Unlimited sent four of their brightest college club leaders in the TU Costa 5 Rivers Program to explore the home of the world’s largest runs of wild salmon: Alaska. The students explored the Kenai Peninsula, Bristol Bay, and the Tongass National Forest in pursuit of the five species of Pacific salmon and other native salmonids that call Alaska home. Their missions was to unearth, document, and share the challenges facing the largest salmon fisheries in the world. They also went fishing, and we will share some of their stories over the next few weeks.

The 5 Rivers Odyssey crew spent our first two days on the Russian River, volunteering with Kenai Peninsula Stream Watch, a U.S. Forest Service (USFS) program that manages salmon habitat on the Russian and Kenai rivers and educates anglers about how they can help conserve these rivers. We spent our days repairing fences along the streambank and learning about how USFS manages these public lands, and our evenings hiking upriver from the crowds to find some fish of our own. We ended our time in Cooper Landing with a float on the Kenai River with some folks from Trout Unlimited Alaska. On this float, I experienced a rejection that completely changed my confidence on the water.


5 River Odyssey students worked with Kenai Peninsula Stream Watch on stream habitat protection.
Photo courtesy Trout Unlimited

As I slowly stripped my streamer through the water, I was startled by the sound of something slapping the water about 30 yards downstream from me. I looked toward the ruckus and told myself that there was no way that a fish could make that sound. I made another cast, heard the sound again, and saw that it had been created by a gorgeous rainbow trout.

I wasn’t the only one who had heard these enormous rises. As we loaded up the boats to finish the float, Austin Williams, Alaska Legal and Policy Director with Trout Unlimited, told me that if I could make the cast, he would get the boat where it needed to be. I knew Austin would be able to give me the opportunity to cast to this fish, but my hands shook a little as I tied on an Elk-Hair Caddis. Before I had even made my cast, doubt and insecurity filled my mind. There were too many things that could go wrong, and I didn’t feel worthy of the opportunity to fish in Alaska.

It took us about six seconds to reach the spot where I had seen the fish, and I made a surprisingly accurate cast. My drift was decent, my heart was in my throat, and everything seemed to be lining up perfectly. But before I knew it, I felt as if my drift was over, and I started to pull my line out of the water. As I did this, however, I saw the wide girth of a healthy-looking trout shimmering through the glacial blue waters of the Kenai and headed toward my fly. The first word that came to mind when I saw this fish was “tank.” But the damage had already been done: my fly had already left the surface.


A float trip on the Kenai is a great way to find big rainbows.
Photo courtesy Trout Unlimited

Just as soon as I saw it, the behemoth was headed back to his lair. I yelled, and Austin did too. He had seen the rejection that might have been avoided, had I been confident in myself and left my fly stay on the water for just a second longer. I still get chills when I think about that fish and what could have been. It makes me want to pull my hair out. It also makes me want to tell every new angler to believe in themselves.

I’ve been fly fishing for less than two years, and I am constantly doubting myself. I have even declined fishing invitations for fear of being embarrassed or not taken seriously. Now that I have some experience under my belt and a lot more confidence–courtesy of that Kenai rainbow that still visits me in my nightmares–I jump at any opportunity to try new things on the water. I have taught a few of my friends the basics of fly fishing, and I hope that I can instill the confidence in them that leads them to keep their fly in the water a second longer, to cast to the fish that they think they’ll never catch, and to travel to some of the wildest places in the world just for the chance to feel a tug at the end of their line.


Evenings after work were time for upstream hikes and reflection.
Photo courtesy Trout Unlimited

A Missouri native, Libby Glaser studies wildlife conservation and management at Missouri State University. She’s involved with several different campus organizations, but her favoriteis the Missouri State Fly Fishing Club, which she started in October of 2017. 

Wednesday Wake-Up Call 09.05.18


The 37-page report is already generating controversy.

Welcome to the latest installment of the Wednesday Wake-Up Call, a weekly roundup of the most pressing conservation issues important to anglers. Working with our friends at


Welcome to the latest installment of the Wednesday Wake-Up Call, a weekly roundup of the most pressing conservation issues important to anglers. Working with our friends at Trout Unlimited, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, The Everglades Foundation, Captains for Clean Water, Bullsugar.org, and Conservation Hawks (among others), we’ll make sure you’ve got the information you need to understand the issues and form solid opinions.

If you know of an important issue–whether it’s national or local–that anglers should be paying attention to, comment below, and we’ll check it out!

1. Florida’s “Lost Summer” of Algae Blooms


This summer, the waters of South Florida have been plagued by toxic blue-green algae that have fouled what should be a vacationer’s and sportsman’s paradise. The state’s water problems are myriad, but Lake Okeechobee brings many bad things together and then flush them to the coast. This is not a new problem, but it seems to be getting worse.

One answer is to construct a reservoir south of Okeechobee, which could store the water that’s now wreaking havoc on both coasts. That water could then be sent south to be filtered by The Everglades. We need to urge Congress to approve the funding for this plan, and that’s where your voice can make a difference.

How You Can Help!
Simply text the word “WATER” to 52886 or click here, and you’ll be sent to an online form that allows you to easily e-mail your Senators and Representative and urge them to PASS the 2018 Water Bill and BUILD the Everglades Reservoir. Please do it today!

Click here to Take Action!

2. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Releases Pebble Project Scoping Report


The 37-page report is already generating controversy.

Last Friday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released the scoping report for the Environmental Impact Study that is part of the permitting process for Pebble Mine. According to an article in Alaska Journal of Commerce,

The summary released Aug. 31 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of the topics the public wants studied in the lead up to a permitting decision for the proposed Pebble mine was met with criticism from groups who feel the mine review is being fast-tracked.

The comments that make up the scoping report are, as the name implies, intended to guide the scope of analysis in the environmental impact statement, or EIS, the Corps is in the midst of drafting for the large mine project.

The Corps received just under 175,000 comments during the scoping period.

Opponents of the mine believe that the comment period was too short and that the report glosses over some important concerns, according to the Anchorage Daily News:

“Today’s report is a preview of how Alaskans should expect the remainder of the permitting process for the Pebble Mine to be managed by the federal government,” said Tim Bristol, director of Salmon State. “Their first major action on permitting was rushed, ignored the voices of Alaskans and overlooked countless problems with Pebble’s application.”

Specific concerns about Pebble’s plan submitted by TU during scoping can be found here. A letter submitted by more than two dozen Alaskan business owners is here. Click the link below to learn more and to find out what you can do the help stop Pebble Mine.

Click here to Take Action!

Action Alert: Help Protect the Trout, Salmon, and Steelhead of Oregon’s Nehalem River Watershed

Written by: Tracy Nguyen-Chung


The Nehalem River could use even more protection than that proposed by the State of Oregon.
Photo by Tracy Nguyen-Chung

Oregon’s North Coast is an incomparable wonder, and home to the Nehalem River. (Nehalim is Salish for “place where people live.”) Lush forests, a sweeping coastal estuary, and miles of . . .

Written by: Tracy Nguyen-Chung


The Nehalem River could use even more protection than that proposed by the State of Oregon.
Photo by Tracy Nguyen-Chung

Oregon’s North Coast is an incomparable wonder, and home to the Nehalem River. (Nehalim is Salish for “place where people live.”) Lush forests, a sweeping coastal estuary, and miles of tributaries make the Nehalem watershed a key habitat for salmon and steelhead.

Currently, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) is assessing a 17.5 mile stretch of the Nehalem River for a State Scenic Waterway designation. The proposed section runs from the Spruce Run Campground to the Cougar Valley State Park. The Wild Salmon Center (WSC), private landowners, community members, public land owners, and conservation organizations all partner to form the advisory committee to provide input on the designation’s management plan.


This Nehalem sea-run cutthroat fell for a caddisfly imitation.
Photo by Tracy Nguyen-Chung

While the designation plan covers in-stream water flows that provide for fish and recreational uses, it does not contain specific language about protections for specific fish species, such as wild steelhead, coho and Chinook salmon, and cutthroat trout. The current draft also does not reflect conservation-focused language around forest management. As a point of reference, the Upper Deschutes Scenic Waterway management plan specifically addresses timber harvest activities, reforestation, and plantings.

The State of Oregon has made their draft plan public, and the Oregon Parks & Recreation Department is asking for public comment now through Sept. 22. This open period provides an opportunity for anglers and recreationists alike to express support for designation and encourage OPRD to ensure that the final plan prioritizes the long-term health and conservation of the Nehalem.

 Take action: submit your comments by email to OPRD.Publiccomment@oregon.gov or via the Wild Salmon Center website form.

Tracy Nguyen-Chung was born and raised in Portland, OR and is the founder of Brown Folks Fishing. She’s a publicist and Creative Director at After Bruce, who spends most of her free time chasing steelhead and salmon all over the PNW.

Are Beavers Good or Bad for Trout? It Depends. . .


Depending on where you live, this guy could be a friend or foe.
Photo by Steve from washington, dc, usa, via Wikipedia

The Hendrickson spinners were just starting to descend on the Battenkill one calm evening last spring, and the river’s wild brown trout were ready. A good fish had begun rising just upstream, . . .


Depending on where you live, this guy could be a friend or foe.
Photo by Steve from washington, dc, usa, via Wikipedia

The Hendrickson spinners were just starting to descend on the Battenkill one calm evening last spring, and the river’s wild brown trout were ready. A good fish had begun rising just upstream, so I moved very slowly into casting position and then spent a couple minutes timing the rises, checking my knots, and planning the presentation. The light was fading fast, leaving time for just a few drifts over the trout, which was surely more than 20 inches long. I false-cast once, twice, and was preparing to lay the line out, when the water right behind me exploded with a tremendous concussion, startling me so badly that I nearly jumped right out of my waders, stumbling forward a couple steps. My line crashed to the surface in a heap, and my panicked reaction sent ripples up and down the pool, effectively ending any shot I had at the big trout. I turned to see a huge beaver circling back for another go. After a second tail slap for emphasis, he disappeared below the surface.

At that moment, I probably would have supported a Vermont Fish and Wildlife trapping campaign in that stretch of the Battenkill, since the large rodent had clearly been detrimental to my fishing experience. But a more serious examination of whether beavers are ultimately good or bad for trout streams requires some complex weighing of divergent factors. Trout Unlimited Senior Scientist Dr. Jack Williams says that, although he is asked about beavers all the time, “It’s hard to make generalizations because the effects of beavers are so site-specific.”

Biologists refer to the beaver (Castor canadensis) as a “keystone species” because its effect is so disproportionate to its abundance. Aside from man, no animal has such a profound effect on its ecosystem, and many anglers see the beavers’ work as predominately destructive—turning a babbling trout stream into a slow-moving wetland, for instance. However, wildlife biologists recognize that each of these “destructive” effects has a flip side: situations in which that very same effect is beneficial to trout. After looking at all the data, then, the question “Are beavers good or bad for trout streams?” can be answered only with a definitive, “It depends.”

A History of Conflict
Picture your favorite trout stream, and then imagine what it would look like after it has been dammed by beavers. These mental images can be dramatically different depending on where you fish. On a high-gradient mountain stream, a beaver dam might create a nice pool where you’ll find deeper water and larger fish, but a lowland river might be turned into a shallow, swampy, and perhaps troutless mess. This is what Doctor Williams means by “site-specific.” And whereas a fisheries manager in the Upper Midwest might spend a lot of time blowing beaver dams and relocating the animals, his counterpart in the Rockies might be spend his energies trying to attract beaver families to a watershed.


Beaver dams can help store water in a watershed, keeping water flows more steady during droughts.
Photo by Franklin Vera Pachecovia Wikipedia

It’s worth remembering that beavers and native trout species (brook, rainbow, and cutthroat) evolved together in North America. Before Europeans arrived, the continent’s beaver population was an estimated 60 to 400 million—which means that the free-flowing rivers that we know today were probably much less common, as most would have had series of dams interrupting their flows. Unfortunately for the beavers, their pelts were in high demand around the globe, and by 1930, there were perhaps as few as 100,000 beavers left, mostly in Canada. As a result of trapping bans and restoration efforts, the beaver population has rebounded to between 6 and 10 million animals, which is still a small fraction of the original number.

Beavers build dams to provide protection from predators and to provide easy access to food, but the ponds that these dams create slow the current and expose the water to more intense sunlight exposure—both of which can lead to a rise in water temperature. These effects can be exacerbated by dark silt, which settles at the bottom of the pond and absorbs heat, and the removal of shade trees from the riverbank. In thermally sensitive low-lying rivers or where trout habitat is already marginal during the summer months, this warming and the accompanying decline in dissolved-oxygen levels can make a stream unsuitable for trout survival. This is why the Wisconsin DNR has been trapping beavers and blowing up dams for the past 35 years, especially in the northeastern part of the state. As Duke Welter—Trout Unlimited’s Western Great Lakes Conservation Coordinator and Outreach Coordinator of the Driftless Area Restoration Effort (DARE)—explains, “Beavers manipulate the system, and so do we.”

The Wisconsin effort is in part based the results of an 18-year project (1982-2000) by wildlife biologist Ed Avery, which studied the effects of removing 546 beaver dams from 32 miles of the Pemonee River and its tributaries. Avery’s findings were compelling: Summertime water temperatures were significantly cooler in 2000 than they had been in 1982; wild brook trout populations were 67% higher in spring and 17% in the fall; the average size of wild brookies increased from 7.6 inches to 8.9 inches; and the number of fish over 7 inches increased by an astonishing 311%. It’s easy to understand why anglers in the Badger State are in favor of keeping the number of beavers in check.

But in the West, where drought is much more common, beaver-created ponds and wetlands can be important tools in the effort to manage water by holding as much of it as possible in the headwaters of river systems. Not only does a beaver pond serve as a reservoir, keeping vital snowmelt from running off too quickly, but the wetlands created by beavers can also serve to raise the water table—storing vital groundwater for the dry months ahead and supporting native streamside vegetation. On Nevada’s Maggie Creek, for instance, TU has been working with multiple partners for more than 20 years to restore Lahontan-cutthroat habitat. The arrival of beaver colonies, which were not part of the original restoration plan, turned out to be a boon to the project, as the wetlands created by dams made the stream more resistant to drought and wildfire and altered the runoff schedule to help trout survive the dry season.


In some areas, beaver dams create fine habitat for bigger trout.
Photo by Walter Siegmund via Wikipedia

On rivers such as the Upper Yakima in Washington, beavers are being reintroduced as a way to add “stream complexity” by creating deep pools, reconnecting channels, and introducing wood. This will help to provide better habitat for salmon-rearing, as well as slow down the runoff each spring. The importance of beavers to the Northwest’s ecosystem is reflected by a series of workshops—titled “Restoring Beaver to Restore Rivers” and hosted by an advocacy group called Worth a Dam—that were held last year in four cities from Northern California to Southeast Alaska.

Pros and Cons
It seems that in almost every situation, where the beaver taketh away he also giveth. When a beaver cuts down streamside trees, which provide vital shade, the water temperature may rise slightly because of increased sun exposure. But those same trees and smaller pieces of wood that fall in the water can become important “cover”—fish-holding structure that offers protection from predators and a break from the current. The deep holes that form behind fallen trees offer a thermal refuge in times of low water and provide safe haven for young of the year and smaller fish, as well as habitat for larger fish.

Similarly, the silt that settles on the bottom of a beaver pond may absorb heat and cover good spawning gravel, but it may also produce a larger mass of food, especially Chironomids, than a free-flowing stream does. Studying a beaver colony in the Sierra Nevada in the late 1950s Dr. Richard Gard found that, in the first few years after a pond is formed, the trout there were considerably larger than those in the stream, although the size difference lessened over time. He also witnessed brown and brook trout rooting in the silt and eating the Chironomid larvae they dislodged. He concluded that “beavers are of substantial benefit to trout in Sagehen Creek,” although he noted that “studies from unlike areas often indicate grossly different conclusions.”

One final criticism of beavers that you’ll often hear is that their dams block fish migrations, which would be a real problem because we know how damaging blocked or perched culverts can be to both the distribution of trout in a stream and their ability to find good spawning habitat. However, a recent study by the U.S. Forest Service and several Utah universities found that, for species that evolved alongside North American beavers, the dams do not seem to be much of a problem a problem. After fitting more than 1,300 trout with PIT tags, the researchers were able to track almost 500 passes through or over dams. Cutthroat trout and brook trout were able to move through beaver dams relatively freely, but the movements of brown trout were somewhat impeded.

Winners and Losers
As beaver families return to watersheds treasured by trout anglers, conflicts often arise between the needs of beavers and trout. As Welter puts it, “In any ecological situation, there are winners and losers,” and in places such as northern Wisconsin some streams are managed for trout—on Nine Mile Creek, for instance, more than 120 beavers have been trapped and twenty-five large dams removed—while others are left to the effects of up to 100 beaver dams per mile. On other waterways, expensive stream-restoration work has to be protected from inundation by dams. However, biologists continue to tweak the process, and the WDNR is in the process of revising its Beaver Management Plan to cover 2015 through 2025; one of its stated goals is to “develop a better understanding of the beaver/trout/watershed relationship.”

As the effects of climate change continue to cause waters to warm and droughts to become more severe, our ability to manage this relationship will become increasingly important. In many parts of the country, restoring beaver wetlands will be the most effective and economically feasible method for protecting watersheds. What that means for trout will depend on a divergent number of factors, and both anglers and biologists will have to weigh all the pros and cons when deciding how to manage each stream.

This story first appeared in Trout Magazine.

Train Spills 4,000 Gallons of Diesel in the West Branch of the Delaware


The Delaware needs our vigilance to ensure its health.
Photo courtesy Eddie Sanchez

Early Thursday morning, a train derailment occurred near Hale Eddy bridge–a famed stretch of prime trout water on the West Branch of the Delaware River–spilling almost 4,000 gallons of diesel fuel . . .

Written by: Eddie Sanchez


Early Thursday morning, a train derailment occurred near Hale Eddy bridge–a famed stretch of prime trout water on the West Branch of the Delaware River–spilling almost 4,000 gallons of diesel fuel into the river. These are my home waters.

Large storms the day before had the river flowing at almost 6,000 cfs at the time of derailment. There are mixed reports as of yet to the extent of the environmental impact, but it seems that the high flows might have helped flush the fuel downstream. Fuel slicks have been reported for more than 15 miles downstream. Luckily, because of high flows, there is expected to be very little impact on the fishery. However, the impact on the ecosystem as a whole has yet to be seen.


Eddie Sanchez with a Delaware system rainbow.
Photo courtesy Eddie Sanchez

As recently as 2012, the Delaware was named the fifth-most polluted river in the United States. A multi-coalition effort to cleanup pollution has restored significant portions of the river, but there is still work to be done. Four states rely on a clean Delaware for their drinking water. That affects more than 15 million people.

This isn’t the first spill on the Delaware, and it won’t be the last. The biggest impact of spills like this may be on the bird population. As an angler and a lover of the outdoors, stories like this recent spill break my heart.


The Delaware needs our vigilance to ensure its health.
Photo courtesy Eddie Sanchez

Conservation and fly fishing go hand in hand. Trout are sensitive, and their survival depends on smart, conservation-minded efforts to make the changes needed to protect their habitats. It’s up to us—the people that love these wild places—to take the steps needed to ensure the future of our fisheries. Find the front lines on your local water. Get involved. Pack it out. Vote for the environment. Our voices together are louder than on their own.

Eddie Sanchez calls the Catskill Mountains of New York home. He’s an ambassador for Brown Folks Fishing. When he’s not on the water you’ll find him on his mountain bike or snowboard. Check him out on instagram