Watershed Association Progress Hinges on New Members

Dave Baltrusaitis (top photo, foreground) and his son, Jake, of Tunkhannock fish a stretch of the North Branch Mehoopany Creek that was restored in the years following the 2011 floods. The work is coordinated by the Mehoopany Creek Watershed Association, members of which sold food and beverages to anglers as part of an annual awareness campaign and fundraiser. Those present for the first day of trout season this year included (seated, front, from left) Phil Howell, Kevin Ray (seated, back, from left) Sarah Rhinard, Marilyn Stark, Faye Ziegler and Kyle Ziegler, (standing) Ed Rhinard and Rusty Bennett.

Photos and story by Rick Hiduk

(Exclusive to EndlessMtnLifestyles.com readers)

The first day of Pennsylvania trout fishing season was crisp and clear in the Endless Mountains, and many anglers reported that the fish were a bit on the sluggish side, especially in the morning. But at Creek Junction near Forkston, at least the sportsmen and women could enjoy a hot cup of coffee and a bite to eat while they waited for the day (and the fishing) to warm up.

Members of the Mehoopany Creek Watershed Association (MCWA) were happy to welcome back the anglers after an unusual year. They have traditionally set up tables to greet the locals and those who travel from other counties to take advantage of the well-stocked stream and check on the progress the MCWA has made to enhance the health of the waterway.

According to MCWA president Kyle Ziegler, about 50 people joined them on April 3 where the North Branch Mehoopany Creek joins the main stem near the intersection of Route 87 and Windy Valley Road. Ziegler was pleased to report that the first three phases of the Roger Hollow Project downstream have been completed, and phase 4 is underway. While it is obvious from Route 87 that something is happening, Ziegler suggests driving on Creek Road to get a better idea of what’s being done.

Since 2019, large stone “arms” have been installed to slow down the stream and increase oxygen levels, and about a thousand feet of boulders have been laid to stabilize a creek bank that was washed over in 2018. The recent improvements also provide deeper pools in which the fish have a better chance of survival when the water is lower in the summer months and the temperatures are high.

Dave Baltrusaitis of Tunkhannock was fishing upstream from Windy Valley Road on April 3 with his son, Jake. David and his three sons have been casting their lines into Mehoopany Creek for a number of years, having formerly lived in Forkston. They’ve also been appreciative of the work that the MCWA has overseen there. “The creek has been set up great for anglers – not only pleasing to look at but it holds fish,” David commented. Despite getting some nibbles on opening day, he and Jake were unsuccessful overall.

When the COVID pandemic picked up in the spring of 2020, the state opened the trout fishing season early with little advance notice. The decision was made to encourage outdoor recreation at a time when most everything else was closed. But it kept the MCWA from conducting the kinds of events that increase awareness of their efforts and bring in some money for smaller projects.

We canceled a few meetings last year because of the pandemic,” Ziegler explained. “We usually make a donation of lime to be spread in State Game Land 57 to help improve water quality, but that didn’t happen this year because of coordination issues.”

Ziegler is hoping for a year of greater visibility for the MCWA with an easing of restrictions and lower COVID case numbers. “We were able to float by without the fundraiser, but we would be hurt if we’d missed another year,” he remarked.

This is Ziegler’s last year serving as president of the organization, which will also lose a couple of other officers. “We need some help more than anything,” he stated. Ziegler will continue to apply for grants to complete the final two phases of the Roger Hollow project, but the MCWA is looking for some new members to step up and take more active roles.

Interested readers can follow the Mehoopany Creek Watershed Association on Facebook.

Jody Gavek (above, right) of Tunkhannock and his son, Cody, were testing the waters of North Branch Mehoopany Creek on April 3.

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