Fathers and sons (top, from left) Jim Wharton, Tom McAndrew, Jack McAndrew and Josh McAndrew enjoy a day of fishing on the North Branch Mehoopany Creek. It was hunting and good fishing that drew Tom to the area, and they are all regular first-day anglers at Creek Junction in Forkston Township. While many of those partaking in the first day of trout season on Saturday weren’t catching much more than a tan, Len Vermeulen (above) of Stowell had just reeled in his fifth fish of the morning.
Photos and story by Rick Hiduk
(Also published in the Rocket-Courier)
Saturday’s brilliant sunshine and warmer temperatures were greatly appreciated by those who took to area lakes and streams on the opening day of trout season. But the ongoing work conducted under the auspices of the Mehoopany Creek Watershed Association (MCWA) has made the confluence of the North Branch Mehoopany Creek and its main stem especially popular among local and visiting anglers. Whether or not the fish are biting, those who return year after year are grateful for enhancements that stabilize the stream and restore habitation.
“I like it a lot. It makes some holes for the fish to hide in,” said Len Vermeulen of nearby Stowell, who has been fishing the Mehoopany creek for 50 years after moving to the area in 1969. “After the flood, it was just gravel bars. There really were no holes. Now you can even find fish in the summer.”
“They did a great job,” Tom McAndrew of Wyalusing said of the MCWA’s efforts, pointing out the meticulous placement of large, hewn rocks and the widened access trails. “It’s great for older guys like me to be able to get in here. And the water flow creates oxygen for the fish.”
Tom was fishing with his father, Jack McAndrew, who had come up from Bucks County, and friends Josh Wharton and his father, Jim Wharton, from Montgomery County.
“A lot of guys cast their spinners in here and catch there limit in an hour or so,” Josh related. While the McAndrews and the Wartons had not had much success by mid-morning, Vermuelen was reeling in his fifth catch of the day.
“They must be keying in on a particular color,” suggested Ed McGowan of Mehoopany, who wasn’t pulling in fish either but enjoying the beautiful day with his friend, Pop, from New Jersey and members of the Underdog Anglers Club from Nicholson. “Stockies can be a little finicky,” he continued. “They’ve only eaten pellets their whole lives.” The water was also a bit turbid from heavy rains the night before, but anglers differ on how that effects fishing.
The shoreline of the North Branch was lined with anglers of all ages, as the stretch not only provides easy access, but the MCWA enhances the “family affair” by selling hot dogs, coffee and other snacks and beverages from a tent at the intersection of Route 87 and Windy Valley Road. Peter Hartman (above, right) of Plymouth has been bringing his son, Hunter, to the area for the past six or seven years as the opening day of trout season generally coincides with Hunter’s birthday.
The food sale is also MCWA’s biggest fundraiser of the year and provides and opportunity for members to share with visitors how grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and other entities have been used and might be used in the future. Profits and donations realized on April 13 are primarily put towards printed materials and other forms of promotion.
Recognition of the group’s efforts have resulted in larger grants, allowing for larger sections of the creek to be targeted for engineering studies, mitigation and restoration. In 2018, the MCWA was awarded $471,276 for the Roger Hollow Stream Restoration Project, which will include a combination of bank stabilization and habitat enhancement similar to that which is more readily visible above the confluence from Route 87 and Windy Valley Road.
MCWA president Kyle Ziegler understands that people living along or utilizing the creek would like to see more work done in a shorter amount of time, and many like to use the term “dredging” in reference to simply pulling everything from the center of the stream bed to the sides. This was a common response to flooding decades ago before the DEP started clamping down on such practices.
“Dredging only makes it worse,” Ziegler explained. “It just speeds up the water and, sooner or later, it hits something that slows it down and forces the water over the banks.” The DEP Growing Greener grants are very specific in their targeting of projects that will enhance water quality by addressing what is referred to as “polluted run-off.”
Phase I, which was previously funded, began last year but was hampered by persistent rains and high water. When it is completed, Phase II, which will involve a half-mile stretch near Tunket Hole where a stream from Rogers Hollow enters the creek, should begin soon after.
“We just need a little cooperation from Mother Nature this year,” Ziegler remarked.
Mehoopany Creek Watershed Association members welcoming guests to Creek Junction Park on Saturday included (seated, from left) Phil Howell, Faye and Kyle Ziegler, Marilyn Stark, Rusty Bennett, Ron Furman and (standing) Dave Kraftjack, Ed Rhinard, and Dennis Mingus.