FTTU held a volunteer appreciation day on Wednesday, June 29, on Linn Run and invited the local media to attend. A picnic lunch was the chapter’s way of thanking everyone who volunteered their time and services for the study. Demonstrations of electro-shocking and macroinvertebrate collection were conducted. Josh Penatzer, Project Manager for Loyalhanna Watershed Association donned the battery pack and electrodes and probed the waters while volunteers followed with nets. The sampling was abbreviated because the water was low and they didn’t want to stress the wild brook trout. More extensive electro-shocking will be conducted in the spring during higher water flows and fish will be checked for gill lice then released unharmed.
Andrea Kautz, Research Entomologist for Powdermill Nature Reserve instructed volunteers on how to use nets to collect trout bugs. Alongside the stream, she coached the volunteers how to sort and identify the bugs which are indicators of water quality. They captured an assortment of mayflies, caddis flies and stoneflies in a matter of minutes. Both Andrea and Josh supervised the volunteers on June 16th when they sampled 12 sections of Linn Run including the major tributaries.
FTTU received a grant through the Foundation For Pennsylvania Watersheds to do a comprehensive study of the Linn Run Watershed with the end result being a Cold Water Conservation Plan identifying problem areas that can be addressed to improve conditions for the native brook trout inhabiting the watershed.
With assistance from our partners at The Loyalhanna Watershed Association, DCNR/Linn Run State Park, The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Powdermill Nature Reserve, Westmoreland County Conservation District, PA Fish and Boat Commission, The Ligonier Valley School District and our own citizen scientist volunteers, we have so far completed a visual habitat assessment, a macroinvertebrate survey and a water quality analysis. Look for the conservation plan to come out in 2022.
As a tribute to Pennsylvania’s state fish, the brook trout, the Altoona Curve Double A baseball club will be playing their June 25-27 games against the Harrisburg Senators as The Altoona Brookies. The players will wear caps sporting a leaping brook trout and jerseys adorned with the brook trout’s natural colors and markings.
Local conservation organizations will be at the ballpark including Tout Unlimited, the Blair County Conservation District, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, PA Fish & Boat Commission and the Little Juniata River Association.
On Wednesday, June 16, FTTU volunteers gathered at the Grove Run Picnic area in Linn Run State Park to do a comprehensive aquatic macroinvertebrate collection and study of Linn Run and its tributaries. Andrea Kautz, Research Entomologist at the Powdermill Nature Reserve, and Josh Penatzer, Project Manager with the Loyalhanna Watershed Association, were the professionals who supervised the study. Previously, Andrea conducted a macro identification training session for volunteers via zoom, and both Andrea and Josh demonstrated the use of kick nets, explained the collection protocol, and oversaw the identification, sorting and scoring process on site. FTTU members with previous experience in macro collection led teams that carried out the kick net collection at 11 different sites within the watershed. Each site had at least 200 organisms captured. The samples were collected in buckets and brought back to the Grove Run Picnic Area where they were counted and sorted to the Genus level and then returned to the stream. All this work was carried out between 1:00 pm and 7:00 pm thanks to the great response we had from volunteers and Andrea and Josh’s guidance.
The numbers and types of macroinvertebrates inhabiting a stream are great indicators of stream health particularly the “high quality” Genus’s of mayflies, stoneflies and caddis flies.
The final report for the Linn Run Coldwater Conservation Plan will be produced in about one year. The study is to determine the overall health of Linn Run and the fishery. Next step, based on the information collected, is to determine if there are potential remediation projects we can undertake that might improve stream health and trout habitat.
FTTU has been wanting to do a comprehensive study of the Linn Run watershed for a long time and finally, it’s happening in 2021. President Larry Myers has assembled a team with FTTU and local conservation organizations including the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, the Westmoreland County Conservation District, the Loyalhanna Watershed Association, the Powdermill Nature Reserve, DCNR – Linn Run State Park and FTTU citizen scientists and local volunteers to accomplish the work. The first step was to do a visual habitat assessment of the watershed which involved walking the entire length of Linn Run and its tributaries. FTTU and community volunteers were assigned “beats” and put boots-on-the-ground looking for impairments and scoring their sections in various categories including sediment deposition, channel flow, embeddedness, riparian vegetative cover, riffle-run-pool frequency and bank stability. The teams took detailed notes, photos and GPS coordinates.
Water quality was next. Samples were collected at various locations around the watershed and were tested for pH, alkalinity, dissolved oxygen and total dissolved solids at our on-site lab at the Grove Run Picnic Area on May 12. Other samples were taken in key locations for professional testing for nitrates, phosphates, acidity, aluminum and turbidity.
Up next will be a macroinvertebrate study and an electro-fishing study. Locations for these activities is to be determined.
Many thanks to our partners, Greg Schaetzle of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy conducted the habitat assessment training, Andrea Kautz of Powdermill will do the macro identification training and Josh Penatzer will handle the electro-fishing study.
The project is funded by a grant from The Foundation for PA Watersheds.
The results will be compiled into a Conservation Plan which will make it easier for us to acquire grants for future stream improvement projects.
The positive influence and impact of FTTU’s Youth Education Director Drew Banas will carry on well into the future. After his untimely passing in March 2021, memorial contributions came pouring in to FTTU’s Drew Banas Memorial Youth Education Fund. Donations have topped $4,700. The fund is restricted in use for Youth Conservation Education and will be used for the chapter’s youth group, sponsoring area youth to attend the Rivers Conservation Camp and Trout in the Classroom equipment and field trips.
More than 200 kids have gone through the FTTU Youth Fly Fishing and Conservation Group that Drew founded in 2005. He also served on the board of the Rivers Conservation Camp held annually at Messiah College along Yellow Breeches Creek.
Drew was honored at the chapter’s May meeting with with memorials by friends and fellow FTTUer’s. Milt Claney presented a slide show of Drew and their days fishing and bird hunting – two of Drew’s passions. Milt was a good friend to Drew, getting him out fishing when his bum knee hindered his wading and stream access. Rod Cross had another slide show highlighting Drew’s work with the Rivers Camp and others celebrated Drew’s life with stories and memories.
Thanks to all who made contributions to the Youth Education Fund.
FTTU Treasurer Monty Murty of Laughlintown was presented with the Don Robb Award at the chapter’s May meeting at the Bear Rocks Community Center near Acme PA. The Don Robb Award is given in recognition of long term and outstanding service to the chapter. From chapter President to litter clean-ups Monty has done it all with FTTU. He has served multiple terms as chapter Treasurer and President. He was instrumental in starting the Trout in the Classroom program in the Forbes Trail Chapter area. He has spent countless hours with our Youth Education program, the fly fishing program for women, stream improvement projects on Mill Creek, organizing banquets and fundraisers and filing grant applications and annual reports. Most recently Monty has been putting in a lot of work with chapter President Larry Myers on organizing the Linn Run Watershed Conservation Plan as well as doing boots-on-the ground work there at Linn Run State Park. Monty has also been a great advocate for the chapter working with the media and doing numerous presentations promoting FTTU and cold water conservation.
In addition, he has served as Regional Vice President with The Pennsylvania Council of TU and on the National Leadership Council where he attended national meetings all over the country.
FTTU owes a great deal of gratitude to Monty Murty. Our chapter is thriving today due in large part to his dedication and hard work.
Don Robb (for whom the award is named) owned and operated a fly fishing shop in Ligonier for decades beginning in the 1920’s. Many local residents learned fly tying, rod building and how to fly fish from Don. He was one of the founders of Forbes Trail Trout Unlimited and is credited with naming the chapter. The Don Robb Award is the Chapter’s highest honor.