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Ringing and reeling in the New Year

Seasonal cold, stiff breeze, weak sun…….and brightly colored trout to offset the drab winter landscape. The New Year’s Day trout fishing event, hosted by Schuylkill Headwaters and sponsored by Schuylkill County Trout Unlimited, just gets more popular every year.

Schuylkill County anglers strongly supported the event, but people made one or two-hour drives for a chance to wet a line and catch a few trout, including some trophy-sized fish. The trout were raised and delivered by Leon Weaver, S & A Trout Ponds, Orwigsburg, who received a round of applause when he arrived with his truck shortly before 10 a.m. Registration had begun at 8 a.m.

The Schuylkill Headwaters and Schuylkill County Trout Unlimited is a natural fit. Both organizations are staffed with members who not only like to fish but work to improve fishing through habitat improvement projects. Schuylkill TU also holds events aimed at attracting new anglers, such as Learn to Fish days and fly-tying classes.

The Schuylkill TU mission is “to conserve, protect, restore and sustain Pennsylvania’s cold-water fisheries and their watersheds, especially our wild trout resources.” Nationally and locally, TU works to restore streams and to educate the next generation about the importance of clean water.

TU clubs have been around since 1963 when Pennsylvania had 3 local chapters; today there are 49 local chapters in the state. The Schuylkill Headwaters Association (SHA) is a 501(c)3 organization. SHA was founded in 1998 with the mission “to promote the environmental integrity of the Schuylkill River, its tributaries, and the watershed that lies within the boundaries of Schuylkill County.”

SHA works to protect and enhance the headwaters of the Schuylkill River by educating residents about the Schuylkill River and by implementing projects to reduce and control pollution. There are various sources of water pollution within the headwaters of the Schuylkill River, but the main impairment is abandoned mine drainage (AMD).

What is AMD and how did past mining practices contribute to the problem? When mines were in operation, water had to be continually pumped out of them. When coal was removed, it left behind a layer called pyrite.

When a mining operation closed, the mine filled with water. The pyrite reacts with air and water, turning the water acidic with a low pH of 3 or 4. As the exiting streams flow, the metal precipitate from the water, forming a coating on the bottom of the streams. That coating affects the habitat for macro-invertebrates, which are what fish eat. Plus, fish can’t survive in streams with a pH lower than 5.

SHA has completed many projects to address the problem, obtaining grants and installing treatment systems. TU has also worked to restore streams, and continually reaches out to bring newcomers to the sport of fishing.

Do you love to fish? Both these organizations can be contacted via Facebook. Cast your help their way by joining, and volunteering.

Jason Kline, Frackville, landed many trout during the special New Year’s Day fishing event, held in Tamaqua. LISA PRICE/TIMES NEWS
The trout were reared and stocked by Leon Weaver, S & A Trout Ponds, Orwigsburg. LISA PRICE/TIMES NEWS