Category Archives: General

Embrace a Stream Challenge

DRWTU thanks 142 ‘unique donors’ for making the fundraising effort a huge success!

Click here to donate to the fund drive!

Thank you, thank you, thank you! The Deerfield River Watershed Chapter of Trout Unlimited (DRWTU) has been awarded thousands of dollars in prizes from Orvis and Trout Unlimited National because of members efforts to raise funds and because of our generous patrons, through the Embrace A Stream Challenge. The “Challenge” pitted our Chapter against 28 other local chapters nationwide that received Embrace a Stream grants, to raise even more money. Trout Unlimited has more than 400 regional chapters throughout the United States. Last year, DRWTU won the Challenge raising nearly $24,000. This year (2019) the chapter raised just under $11.5K through direct contributions to place second in both number of unique donors and amount of money raised. As a result DRWTU will get several thousand more in matching funds and prizes.

Ted Castro Santos talks about the telemetry study with members and friends of DRWTU at the Floodwaters Brewery for the Embrace A Stream Challenge kick-off event.

DRWTU started the “Challenge” week with a kick-off party on Monday, November 4th at 6 pm at Floodwater Brewery, 40 State Street, Shelburne FallsFree hot dogs and bratwurst were served up by DRWTU volunteers.  People attending were encouraged to urge their friends to contribute to the online fundraising via text messaging and email. Matching funds are awarded daily in a host of categories, ranging from having the greatest number of small donations on a given day, to the largest.

“It’s really a lot of fun and a great time,” said Michael Vito, president of the DRWTU Chapter, recalling last year’s event.  “Even a $10 donation can stretch a lot further under the rules of this Challenge.” The Challenge starts November 4th and ends on November 11th.

The $2,500 grant and money raised through the challenge will be used to purchase additional radio transmitter “receiver” equipment as part of its Brown Trout Radio Telemetry study which started in early September. Partnering with biologists from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Silvio O. Conte Anadromous Fish Laboratory, in Turners Falls, and the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife DRWTU volunteers have already begun tracking the daily movements of 30 brown trout all previously equipped with transmitters. You can view a map that displays up-to-date data on the trout we are tracking here https://ecosheds.org/dev/tame/ Special attention will now be given to the upcoming spawning season. The data collected will help determine the impacts of daily hydro-peaking – up and down – flows from Brookfield Power’s Fife Brook Dam and Bear Swamp hydroelectric operations on spawning trout. This year-long study is believed to be the first radio telemetry study of its kind in the nation. Check our Facebook and Instagram pages for more information about this important study. 

Tip of the Month: Bob’s Leader

We launch another round of the Fly Tip of the Month with a valuable contribution from Bob Gancarz. The tip of your fly line rig that is – Bob’s Leader Formula. I apologize for not posting this sooner. Build your own leader according to Bob’s specifications in the drawings below.

Tip of the Month: I am posting a leader formula that Bob Gancarz shared with us during his presentation ‘Big Trout Eat Tiny Flies’ at our Chapter meeting in March.
Bob Gancarz torques on a 0 wt custom fly rod during his presentation Big Trout on Tiny Flies in March, 2019.
Bob demonstrates the shock absorbing properties of a 0 weight fly rod.

Click here to see the Tiny Fly Tying Tutorial Bob provided to the Chapter.

Catch a Radio Tagged Brown?

Volunteers from TU, USGS, US Fisheries and Wildlife, and MA Fish and Wildlife tagging fish for the study.

If you are following DRWTU here or through local media, you know we are embarking on a two year-long study of thirty radio-tagged brown trout in the Deerfield River. This collaboration already involves scores of volunteers from TU and partner conservation agencies, biologists from the USGS Silvio Conte Anadromous Fish Lab, and MA Fish and Wildlife. What should you do if you catch one of those radio-tagged trout?

Please gently and quickly unhook and release the trout back into the Deerfield. Then when you get within cell phone coverage, please call and report the catch to DRWTU President Mike Vito at 413-320-1521. You are going to want to report the catch to MA Fish and Wildlife using the link on our banner above.

Tagged browns have a thin wire antenna trailing back from their abdomen.

What if you ‘take’ a tagged fish legally or find a dead fish with a radio tag? Well, we would hope you would forego taking a fish out of our study, but if you choose to take the fish we can reuse the transmitter. Please call 413-320-1521 to make arrangements to turn it in.

The antenna wire is just barely visible in the photo along the flank of this beautiful brown trout.

Devastating Fish Kill on the North River (Updated 9/4/19)

Rainbow trout along with several dace – victims of apparent acid spill on the North River.

The North River is one of the major tributaries of the Deerfield River; it is designated as a ‘Major River’ by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

At about 12:30 PM on September 1, I observed hundreds of dead fish at my house near the confluence with the Deerfield. I traced the multiple sizes and species of dead fish upstream to the Route 112 bridge at Call Road which is just downstream from this Barnhardt Manufacturing plant. On September 2, the DEP confirmed to reporters that a leak of sulfuric acid had occurred at this Barnhardt cotton processing facility.

CORRECTION: The dead fish included the long-nosed sucker a ‘listed’ species in Massachusetts. Read about the special status of this fish at the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species web page. The photograph below turns out to be a Longnose Dace. This species is not listed in MA. However, Leanna Fontaine is the biologist from MA F&W who was called in after I reported the spill to the MA Environmental Police. She left me a voice message today (9/3/19) stating she had seen multiple species in her sojourn out here to the North River including “black nosed and longnose dace and white suckers and longnose suckers, tessellated darters, common shiners, creek chubs and the like and a a couple of salamanders and crayfish.” So she did find longnose suckers – the species of special interest per the MA Natural Heritage and Endangered species.
Hope this information helps to further clarify the significance of this event.

I reported the fish kill and apparent spill to the MA Environmental Police. They reported it to DEP and a MA F&W biologist was notified and investigated. The media started to report the story on September 2. Here’s a video of fellow DRWTU board member Chris Jackson and I being interviewed by Channel 22 news. Here’s the story as reported by the Greenfield Recorder. Watch this website for updates as this story develops.

Through social media many local residents have expressed outrage about the failure of the plant to get the word out that a dangerous chemical had been leaked into a river that is used for fishing and swimming by their children and families. Many questions are still unanswered. Below are some photos taken by a student at Mohawk Trail Regional High School who lives along this stretch of the river.

Join us in our mission to address this issue and protect and preserve coldwater fisheries including the North River and the entire Deerfield River Watershed. Currently we have several conservation projects planned including a study of trout movement using telemetry and a September 28 river clean-up effort at Bardwells Ferry with our partner organization, the Connecticut River Conservancy. A ‘Rock Roll’ to create a cold water refuge for trout at the mouth of the Pelham Brook will get underway as soon as we get the local permits required. Become a member of our chapter, or make a donation By clicking the button below.

Where Do Brown Trout Go?

While Ted Castro-Santos fine tunes the telemetry receiver, Kris van Naerssen aims a YAGI antenna at a transmitter submerged just downstream of Fife Brook Dam by DRWTU President Mike Vito (out of sight). Board member Bill O’Bear looks on to understand the operation of the directional YAGI antenna.

Finding wary trout and learning their sometimes fussy habits go hand-in-hand with fly fishing, but this year the Deerfield River Watershed Chapter of Trout Unlimited (DRWTU) is going to take that notion to a whole other level. Rather than scouring the river with fly rods and nets, members and volunteers will use electronic equipment as part of the group’s most ambitious conservation project to date. 

​Our local TU Chapter is preparing to commence a brown trout radio telemetry study, which may be the first of its kind on any similar-sized river controlled by hydro-electric dams in the United States. The study is designed to investigate the impacts of daily hydro-peaking flows on trout living in the stretch below Fife Brook Dam in Rowe.  Partnering with biologists from the USGS Silvio O. Conte Anadromous Fish Lab in Turners Falls and the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, DRWTU is expanding its role as citizen scientists to identify the specific challenges to trout caused by the Deerfield River’s current hydro-peaking flows.

You can contribute to the study through donations of time and or money. If you’re interested in volunteering to take part in our brown trout telemetry study, e-mail DeerfieldriverTU@gmail. com. For updates, visit our website as well as our Facebook and Instagram pages. To donate to our chapter click the donation button below.

Biologist Ted Castro-Santos instructs DRWTU board members on the principles and operation of the telemetry equipment, with support from Jadziah Hanson-Moorstone, intern at the Conte lab and biologist from USFWS.
Biologist Ted Castro-Santos with the help of Matt O’Donnell secures one of DRWTU’s telemetry transmitters onto the anchor line of Chris Jackson’s raft.
DRWTU Board Member and River Guide Chris Jackson volunteered to row his raft in the August 15 trial of DRWTU’s newly acquired telemetry transmitters and receivers.
DRWTU Board Member Chris Jackson tows a radio telemetry transmitter attached to the anchor of his raft through rough water on the Deerfield River. Biologists from USGS safeguard the transmitter and record waypoint data while running a test of the DRWTU equipment. The equipment tested out perfectly, with better than expected reception via vehicle-mounted antenna from the road along the Deerfield.
Cover photo for the Final Report on the 2018 DRWTU Trout Spawning Study

Spawning Study Final Report

Cover photo for the Final Report on the 2018 DRWTU Trout Spawning Study

We are very excited to be able to share the final report of the Second Deerfield River Trout Spawning Study. The pdf is available to read or download here. The report authored by Erin Rodgers, PhD, with contributions from Mike Hayden, was submitted to TU National on July 13 as part of the final Embrace a Stream grant report. Thanks to the efforts of our members and the friends of DRWTU who participated in this study, we have been able to demonstrate that brown trout spawning on the mainstem of the Deerfield is not an anomaly. The Deerfield River is a wild trout fishery!

Single Fly/Jim Gariepy Tournament Results

Eddie Esposito playing a rainbow trout during the Single Fly Event to qualify and take first place in Sunday’s Jim Gariepy Memorial Fly Fishing Tournament.

The Second Annual Jim Gariepy Memorial Fly Fishing Tournament and Single Fly Event saw beautiful weather, fantastic hatches, and many happy anglers. Good food and good company were in abundance.

The Results:

Senior Single Fly Champ: Roger Blair

  • Jim Gariepy Tournament First Place: Eddie Esposito
  • Jim Gariepy Tournament Second Place: Brian Miner
  • Senior Single Fly Champ: Roger Blair
  • Single Fly Champ: Eric Halloran
  • Junior Single Fly Champ: Jacob Gilbert
  • Single Fly Winning Team: Roger Blair and Zack Turner
  • Pepe Award (largest Trout): Eddie Esposito

Thanks to our generous sponsors:

  • Berkshire Brewing Company
  • Deerfield Fly Shop
  • Overwatch Outpost
  • Concord Outfitters
  • Swift River Fly Fishing
  • Hilltown Anglers
  • Shelburne Falls Coffee Roasters
  • High Hook Wines
  • Pheasant Tail Tours
  • Walking Cloud Farm
  • Fish Tale Fabricators
  • Jack Shea
  • Larry Poirier
  • Sean Breshahan

Thanks to our Team of Volunteers

  • Randy Prostak
  • Bill Obear
  • Horace Taft
  • Kevin Kaminsky
  • Jim Krupa
  • Sheila Kelliher
  • Sean Bresnahan
  • Larry Poirier
  • Jack Shea

DRWTU,MA F&W, and USFW File Comments in Relicensing Process

Update April 25: MA Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and US Fisheries and Wildlife Service both cited the DRWTU Trout Spawning Studies in comments filed with Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MADEP) (See links below).

MASS Fish & Wildlife Comments
US Fisheries & Wildlife Service Comments

DRWTU Attorney Chris Myhrum has filed two official documents on our behalf intended to impact the relicensing of Fife Brook Dam and the Bear Swamp Project.

What we are asking for in the FERC arena:

  • Increase winter minimum flows in winter to 350 cfs to keep redds adequately covered
  • Ramping up and ramping down to protect young of year fish
  • Earlier in day recreation releases to provide for cold water relief during hot days
  • Reducing disparate hydropeaking events

 Click Here to read or download the entire FERC comment document.

In the MA DEP arena we are advocating for all the same stuff as the FERC venue,  but we are also asking  MA DEP order Brookfield to conduct an Instream Flow Assessment (IFIM) study now, as well as at the time the Great River license comes up for renewal so we can assess hydropeaking impacts on spawning and young of year fish, and other river ecological damage resulting from Brookfield operations.  This IFIM has already been requested in the FERC process multiples times by our agency partners.  Brookfield has offered to conduct a 7 mile stretch survey, however, we want the entire 17 mile stretch done. 

Click Here to read the entire letter to MA DEP.