This post is for stream PA-1B. I won’t name streams on my site (sorry, don’t ask) to prevent them from being “spot burned” or unwanted attention drawn to them.
Stream PA-1B is a freestone stream perched high in the Alleghenies. It is listed as a stream which supports natural reproduction. That’s about it’s entire claim to fame. It is stocked throughout most of the accessible area. Historically it was stocked with brook trout, but recently that’s changed to rainbow and brown trout.
Stream PA-1B has a lot of character. In it’s mid, to end, it meanders through forest lined with mountain laurel. It is held back by the industrious beaver’s work to make lodges. It even flows clear and cool most of the year. It holds wild fish and stocked fish side by side.
Case in point is the above two photos. The top photo is obviously a stocked fish. These PA stockers have an obvious lack of halo spots down the side. Other features may be telling too. They can have clipped pectoral fins, or adipose fins. Their fins can be worn or generally damaged from their early days in concrete raceways. Usually, the black leading edge of their belly fins (pectoral, pelvic, ventral and caudal) is not as defined as on a wild fish.
In general, genetics that drive outward appearance don’t vary that much that you would see such variation in two specimens of the same species within the same hole. I’m not a biologist, but I think that one is common sense. From what I’ve read, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of gene flow between the stocked trout and the wild trout. I hope it stays that way.
As I mentioned, the beavers have been hard at work on this stream. I have a love/hate relationship with these things. On one hand, they build incredible habitat. On the other, they’re rarely fishable, especially with a fly rod. and depending on elevation and gradient, the ponds can warm the water. Regardless, they’re present on this stream, and that could be good or bad. I still have a lot to explore on this stream. There’s not a lot of access, or access that allows one to reach it’s extreme ends.
The information below is an update to PA-1B;
I fished this stream twice since posting the original description and photos. Once just prior to stocking and another about a week after the opening day of trout season in PA. Additionally, I spoke with the area fisheries manager for this region about this stream specifically. I’ll address my thoughts after fishing the stream some more, and then give a bit more information about the water quality issues that the stream faces.
Prior to the stocking/closure, the stream fished much like it did in the winter. Several wild brook trout of sub-legal size, and a few holdover stocked brook trout. Generally, the fish were sparse and spread out. After stocking, there was a marked increase in stocked trout, obviously, but wild trout were also found. Of most concern was several dead wild brook trout throughout the stream. These were clearly casualties of being mishandled, or hooked deep by bait fishermen. It’s hard to see 4″ wild brook trout dead due to angler mortality.
This stream gets absolutely pounded by fishermen during the opening of trout season. I encountered a lot of people and the stream had obvious signs of being fished hard. The only good thing about the stream from an angling pressure standpoint is that it has a lot of cover and the water is typically gin clear. I saw several large, hold-over brook trout scattering under logs from a good distance away. This means that they’ve gotten used to hiding, and that makes them much harder to catch. This stream would never receive this kind of angling pressure if it weren’t for the stocking.
One interesting thing I’ve noticed with the wild fish is that they generally have a unique appearance. They typically have very pronounced magenta spots and a peach colored belly. Their green and spotting is much less pronounced than other fish in the region.
One of the things that I’ve noticed in this area is the sandy bottom on a lot of the streams. After speaking with the area fisheries manager, my suspicions were confirmed about the alkalinity of the water. Most of the geology in this area is sandstone, and the streams are almost entirely decomposed sandstone. This isn’t good for water quality. The alkalinity and, subsequently, the pH of the streams are very low.
What I find most interesting about the low pH and alkalinity is the relative abundance of wild fish. Brook trout are supposed to be very sensitive to pH, yet this stream seems to still be producing fish. Additionally, in the words of the fisheries manager, the stream is very infertile. Yet, I saw quite a lot of insect activity in and above the water. Granted, these are the more tolerant species, but they are there nonetheless.
At this point, I’ve explored a fair amount of the stream. I still plan to explore an upper section that is very choked with mountain laurel and I suspect doesn’t get fished as hard as the lower end. I plan to take some water quality testing equipment with me on that trip and hope to find better fish near the source. I plan to fish it mid-fall before the spawn to see if any large stocked fish that are more than 1 year old in the stream survive in the upper end.