This has been the hottest and most miserable summer that I can remember. The rains from last summer have vanished and the temperatures have hovered in the 90’s or above all summer long. In my forty-one years, I cannot remember a summer with so many 100 degree days. If you live here in the Midwest, this is not news to you. We have watched as the local and national news has chronicled this drought and the damage it has done. We are in dire need of substantial rains and cooler temperatures.
If you are a regular reader of our blog, you know of my love affair with trout. I make no apologies for my fascination with these beautiful fish. They are the perfect opponent for both fly and fly rod. Here in Ohio we are very limited in our opportunities to catch trout. We have three streams that are stocked with fingerlings, one that is stocked by a local TU organization and one that is a lottery fishery. These streams are small treasures and should be treated as such.
Today, I was able to visit my beloved Clear Creek. There has been a great deal of both argument and discussion on the viability and sustainability of trout in this watershed. Many believe that the state is wasting their time and efforts on this fishery. Some believe that farming practices in the headwaters are ruining any chances the trout may have to survive. Others believe there is not enough riparian protection to keep the stream cool enough. The ODNR are in the process of studying this habitat as well as the other two state stocked streams here in Ohio. I trust in their opinions and believe that Clear Creek has the potential to be a wondeful trout fishery.However, it needs our help to keep these fish healthy and protected.
Today, I did not fish. In fact, I make it a point not to fish there between mid June and mid September. I went to check the water and see if I could find any survivors. Although brown trout are the most temperature tolerant of all of our trout species, they still struggle to survive in water temperatures that exceed 70 degrees. The temperature gage on Clear Creek has reached 80 degrees on several days this summer. Along with warmer temperatures, the stream is moving at only 17cfs. These two factors do not help with the oxygen levels that the trout need to survive. However, there were survivors.
I was able to see two trout from the road in a deeper section of stream. They were not moving much, and I did not want to stress them further. They were content to hover near the surface in the search of slow moving food. I was very happy to see them. What I was not happy to see was the guy fishing for trout further upstream. I have caught close to a hundred fish from this stream in the past year. However, only three or four of them were above the legal length limit for keeping. Any trout that is caught now will most certainly die from stress and would not be legal to keep. These two factors alone should be enough to keep everyone off of the stream.
I am not the trout police and that person has every right to fish this stream. However, with the limited resources that we have to stream fish for trout, I would hope that we could all be patient enough to wait for cooler weather. There are plenty of other fish that we can chase that are much more temperature tolerant than trout. Both smallmouth and largemouth fishing has been very good and our admirable opponent, the carp, is always a wonderful fly rod challenge. Take a trip to chase anyone of those species, but please leave the trout for cooler days.