What do trees and trout have in common?
The Keystone State trout season opener on April 3 had many people interested in fishing.
All trout are coldwater species needing the right mix of clean, cold and food filled waters to maintain healthy populations of these fish. Although our world is quite separate from trout habitat, everything ties together with water. Water is important for everything on earth including trout since they breathe, eat, and reproduce in water. Protection of water quality is critical for trout.
Tree growth needs sunlight, water, and nutrients. Trees give back water to the atmosphere, disburse water through the canopy, and protect surface waters and soil from erosion and nutrient runoff.
Growth of trees along streams helps to keep waters cold in summer, reduces sediment entering the stream during spring thaw and rain events, reduces excess nutrients by absorption as food for the tree's leaves and stored in the tree's wood growth.
The trees are directly connected to trout in Pennsylvania. Leaves that fall from riparian trees to the trout stream begin the food chain creating natural materials and habitat for the beginning of aquatic insect life cycles. Trees also shelter the streams from extreme warm conditions in summer by shading the rocks and waters from solar heat. When rains hit tree leaves, it reduces the droplet size and velocity decreasing the amount of erosion into prime trout waters. The rain also can dislodge terrestrial insects from the tree canopy feeding the trout.
Think about your most successful trout fishing trip and where you found a large fish.
Was that huge brookie tucked in against the bank where you had difficulty casting to the location because of bank roots and tree branches overhead? That big fish location was not a coincidence. Fish grow large when they have optimum habitat, minimal predators, and good food supplies.
Trees are a major part of good trout habitat, especially as our world changes from human development throughout the Keystone State watersheds. Logs in streams create habitat increasing locations for trout to hide and hunt down their food. Aquatic insects, crayfish and bait fish hide around logs in streams making optimum feeding areas for the trout. We typically get logs in streams from forested areas unless they are installed by conservation organizations as trout habitat enhancement structures.
What do trees and trout have in common? A natural common need for water for growth, leaves to shelter the stream from erosion and extreme sunlight, roots to create shelter habitat for hiding trout along the bank, and protection from high water event loss of the bank.
Trout consume terrestrial insects from rain events knocking caterpillars, ants, and aphids to name just a few insects from the tree canopy. The leaf litter creates habitat and food for Caddis fly, Mayfly and Stoneflies, all creating a positive food relationship between trees and trout.
The Luzerne Conservation District has completed a number of projects on trout streams that restore shade, improve fish and wildlife habitat, and cleanup water from contaminants in runoff. Trout Unlimited, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and other conservation districts throughout the Commonwealth are improving trout streams with the free trees supplied by the partnership.
Reach out to CBF, Trout Unlimited and your county conservation district to improve your stream along your property. It protects your stream, your land, and trout habitat along with helping the Chesapeake Bay.
—John Levitsky, Luzerne Conservation District Watershed Specialist