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April 2, 2014

Watershed Stewardship to Protect Local Fish Populations

The land around a river or stream is just as important as the water itself. You can confirm that by talking to property owners who have dealt with erosion! One of the creatures most affected by degraded riverbanks is fish. You can’t ask them how, of course, but luckily scientists have worked to elucidate the issue.

Trout in the Gooseberry River

Photo by Pete Markham.

When dirt and debris fall into the water, the local fish have a huge problem. Some species depend on clear water for their feeding and reproductive processes. There are basic steps we can take to prevent this, and if it is already happening, there are fixes we can implement.

If you are a landowner who thinks erosion is going to be a problem, try to leave a good amount of trees on each side of the water. Trees anchor the soil and augment the food chain. Leaves hold solar energy; when they fall into the water, bacteria take the opportunity to thrive. As the leaves begin to break down, they appeal to aquatic insects as food. And what do fish love? Insects!

Log Steps to Stop Erosion

Photo by Granger Meador.

If land is already beginning to wash away, you can stop it by placing large rocks along the banks, which will support the ground. Securing cut logs along the sides will also help.

Oh For Fish Sake

When people go out to enjoy a day of fishing, they commonly bring supplies with them. A few snacks and more than likely some beer. Why not? Sounds like a great day! The key thing is to make sure that the byproducts of the great day don’t ruin future good times, which is what will happen if the trash is left behind.

03 - There are a lot of fish in the river

Photo by Michael Robinson.

Trash can do a lot of harm to fish. Small pieces can be eaten and cause massive problems with the organs. Depending on the trash, fish can get caught up in it and eventually be strangled. Fishing and hanging out on the riverbanks are great pastimes, so make sure that the area is picked up when you leave. As boy scouts say, “Leave no trace!”

If your favorite spots are free of mess, then maybe you can look into places that are not. Aid those who are protecting the environment by clearing garbage out of natural areas whenever you encounter it. It’s important to remember that any kind of stress to a riparian environment will directly impact the fish. Issues like change of behavior, diminished growth, and disease susceptibility can all occur. There are also many people who will benefit from your assistance, like kids who are newly discovering the joys of nature:

Photos of Urban Blazers: 1 & 2.

Here on Creeklife, you can readily find people who need help with projects. It feels good to participate in a community that solves problems. Besides, you never know when you might need a hand in return! Check out opportunities to help in Cleveland and Fairport Harbor, both in Ohio.

There are also many programs dedicated to solving dilemmas like these; Waterkeeper Alliance is an excellent one. They maintain a committed professional organization that helps local programs maintain clean waters.

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Posted by Mark Contorno.

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