Category Archives: Projects

Deerfield River Spawning Study

The DRWTU is in the process of conducting a scientific study to document the spawning activity of trout on the Deerfield River.  This is the first spawning study on the mainstem of the Deerfield.  DRWTU engaged Dr. Michael Cole of Cole Ecological, Inc to coordinate the study. Volunteers from among the members of the DRWTU chapter have been trained to take part in the study and thus far have collected the data on fall spawning activity in the Deerfield. Preliminary results confirm that brown trout and rainbow trout are actively spawning on the mainstem of the Deerfield.  Observations indicate that survival of eggs in the redds (spawning beds) is negatively impacted by the hydropeaking activities practiced by the power company controlling the dam at Fife Brook.  DRWTU has requested that the Federal Energy Resource Commission (FERC) require a comprehensive study of the ecological impact of hydropeaking before renewing the license for operation of the dam to the power company.  The DRWTU has received donations from Thomas and Thomas, the Deerfield Fly Shop, Swift River Fly Fishing, and individual chapter members in the amount of $7,854 towards the study.  As a result of this funding combined with substantial hours of volunteer time on the river, DRWTU is drawing national attention to the Deerfield and the natural reproduction of her trout population.  Anyone who would like to donate can do so through the link on our web page.  Anyone who would like to participate can attend DRWTU chapter meetings on the third Thursday of the month or contact DRWTU though the contact link on our website.

DRWTU members conduct spawning survey on the Deerfield River.

Spawning Survey

 

The Deerfield River Watershed Chapter of Trout Unlimited (DRWTU) is conducting a survey of the spawning activity of wild brown trout on the river. Over the past several years redds (trout spawning beds) have been observed in the fall by a number of guides and anglers, but have yet to be formally documented. According to fisheries biologists and hydro electric dam operators, any trout smaller than stocked sizes (5” to 10” or so) caught by anglers on the Deerfield were exclusively the result of fish spawning in the tributaries of the Deerfield and migrating to the main stem. A classic conundrum.

The DRWTU is committing dollars and man-hours to resolve this question. The spawning survey will document and mark the location of individual redds; document the presence of eggs in those redds; and follow-up on the viability of egg-bearing redds in the Spring. DRWTU anticipates the survey will contribute valuable information to the discussion of native brown trout spawning in the Deerfield mainstem. With this information it may be possible to persuade dam operators to modify their releases to enhance the viability of trout spawn and ultimately create a robust native brown trout population.

Survey teams were trained by TU member and professional ecologist Mike Cole. Teams of TU chapter volunteers began locating and mapping redds the week of 11/13/17 in four study areas. Active redds will be revisited and evaluated for success in Spring 2018.

You can help by making a tax deductible donation to the chapter for this effort and/or encouraging your friends and relatives to donate. Please avoid disturbing the fish on the redds when you are fishing the Deerfield. If you have photos of wild browns (Brown Trout under 10” especially), please pass them along to the chapter by emailing to deerfieldtu@gmail.com. Click Here [ DRWTU_Spawning_Survey_Protocols_10-28-17 ] for the protocols for the survey authored by Michael B. Cole of Cole of Cole Ecological, Inc.

 

A brown trout redd on the Deerfield River mainstem.
Live eggs from a redd on the mainstem of the Deerfield River.

Deerfield River Temperature Monitoring

 

In 2013, the Chapter was a project partner in an assessment of the Deerfield River that included temperature monitoring at 11 locations from the Dry Way all of the way downriver to a stretch behind Deerfield Academy.  The temperature data from the project provided a complete temperature profile of the river across most of its length in Massachusetts.  From the data we learned that the river’s warmest reaches are actually its middle reaches between Charlemont and the #4 dam, where summertime water temperatures can reach 80 degrees or higher.  Water temperatures were found to be lower in the lower river immediately below the dams than in this middle section of river.  Furthermore, water released from Fife Brook dam was found to have a significant and immediate cooling effect on the river as far down as the middle river sections, suggesting that releases can be used to provide cooler water for fish in the Charlemont and Buckland sections of the river.  Owing to the importance and potential flow-management implications of these results, DRWTU has continued to monitor river water temperatures at 9 locations from Fife Brook Dam downriver into Deerfield for the past two summers (2014, 2015).  These additional data are also important because they corroborate findings across years, and they continue to document the regular occurrence of summertime water temperatures that are stressful to trout.  Collectively, these 3 years of water temperature data provide a solid foundation from which DRWTU can make informed recommendations for flow management with respect to maximizing benefits to the river’s coldwater fishery.

Chickley River

In the spring of 2015 DRW TU chapter members assisted the Connecticut River Watershed Council  along with land owners and residents of  Hawley in planting hundreds of trees and shrubs along sections of the Chickley River that were devastated by tropical storm Irene in 2011. This project took many days over several weeks to complete. Shortly after planting , a drought threatened to setback or kill many of the trees. Local landowners, TU volunteers and others spent dozens of hours transporting water to the thirsty trees. A year later we are pleased to report that over 90% of the planted trees are thriving and will begin to provide a variety of riparian services including reducing runoff and erosion and keeping the river cool during the heat of the summer.

Crowningshield Conservation Area Project

West Branch of the North River, Heath MA
West Branch of the North River, Heath MA

The Crowningshield Project is a first of its kind partnership with TU and the Franklin Land Trust to preserve close to a mile of pristine wild trout water on the headwaters of the West Branch of the North River in Heath, Massachusetts.  This project began when Josh Morse and Will Anderson from FLT were evaluating the property of Phyllis Crowningshield for a potential land trust acquisition. The criteria for FLT historically has been for the property in question to have forestry or agricultural value.

Cleanup Crew Crowningshield Fall 2015
Cleanup Crew Crowningshield Property – Fall 2015

The Crowningshield parcel came up short in both categories, and but for the diligence of Will and Josh, would likely have been declined for potential acquisition by the land trust. What they found in hiking the property was a pristine trout stream teeming with wild trout, solid riparian habitat and fields that had turned into prime upland game habitat. They realized that this property had value beyond just the standard forestry and agricultural criteria. FLT reached out to our chapter to see if we had interest in helping acquire this property to preserve this important headwater area. Realizing that the project was to large for our chapter as a single partner with FLT, our Board of Directors chose to bring this important project to the MA/RI Council of TU and the Greater Boston Chapter of TU for help.

To the credit of our colleagues at GBTU and the MA/RI Council, the importance of this project was recognized immediately.  Council President John Troiano  added the Crowningshield project to the agenda for the next Council meeting. The fast-tracking of Crowningshield was an important element as the owner/seller Phyllis Crowningshield had set a time limit for the deal to be completed.

$1,500 Check presented to Franklin Land Trust For Crowningshield Property
$1,500 Check presented to Franklin Land Trust For Crowningshield Property

At the Council meeting Will Anderson and Josh Morse  from FLT made an excellent presentation of the Crowningshield property and  the elements of the deal to the delegates that form the body of the MA/RI Council. The response from the Council body was overwhelming-all attending chapters save one voted to support the project and help raise the funds to meet the financial  benchmark.

Fast forward to April 2015 and of all of the hard work by the staff of FLT, the Deerfield River Watershed TU, Greater Boston TU, and the MA/RI Council has come to fruition. The Crowningshield property has been purchased by the Franklin Land Trust and will be preserved in perpetuity – with the conservation restriction (CR) held by the state of Massachusetts.

Crowingshield Conservation Area Dedication
Crowingshield Conservation Area Dedication

A celebration of this accomplishment  occured on Wednesday October 19th, 2016 at theCrowningshield Conservation Area site in Heath.  Environmental Affairs Secretary Matt Beaton and Dept. of Fish and Game Commissioner George Peterson presented thoughtful comments along with TU members and representatives of the FLT.