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Driftless Region Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin

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Old 01-09-2017, 07:34 PM
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Default Re: Habitat Improvement in the Driftless

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Originally Posted by johnstoeckel View Post
Another aspect of HI, whether hard or soft armor, is proper bank sloping. Typically "high" eroding banks are lowered and sloped back at 4 or 5 to 1 ratio. Then when the water rises it spreads out and dissipates its energy across a large area (ideally covered with deep rooted prairie grass). Without proper bank sloping, the high water energy is concentrated on the banks which can get damaged eventually even if rock armored. The HI guys refer to the bank sloping as "reconnecting the flood plain".

Yes, rock and earth moving with heavy equipment for HI is not cheap. However, I think HI is one of those things where doing it well to begin with, even if the initial cost is higher, is less expensive in the long run.
Thanks for the response John. I do hope we can maintain this conversation for awhile. It's very important. I have a lot of thoughts, and questions. I'm no expert, but I have seen some projects that appear to work a lot better than others. My southern Driftless perspective may vary from you guys further north. At this time I am inclined to believe.....

-a different strategy may be needed for wild streams and the trout park streams. I am a realist. In Iowa the stocker put and take bait guys are buying 98% of the trout stamps. Provide them a park like experience with a mowed path if that is what they want. They will fish where the access is easy. Leave wild streams as natural as possible. If they are consistently ripped by flood events then some intervention is fine, but don't make a trout park. We have plenty of those already.

Regarding type of improvements, I'd like to see more info on the prairie grass, soft slope/flood plain strategy. The two I have seen seem to be working.
Rocks where it makes sense, wood improvements are next to worthless, and sometimes harmful in the end IMO.
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Old 01-10-2017, 07:18 AM
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Default Re: Habitat Improvement in the Driftless

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Originally Posted by ia_trouter View Post
-a different strategy may be needed for wild streams and the trout park streams. I am a realist. In Iowa the stocker put and take bait guys are buying 98% of the trout stamps. Provide them a park like experience with a mowed path if that is what they want. They will fish where the access is easy. Leave wild streams as natural as possible. If they are consistently ripped by flood events then some intervention is fine, but don't make a trout park. We have plenty of those already.
I completely agree. The DNR should offer a diverse selection of management styles. Streams like the Pine and Trout Run are very healthy trout parks. Streams like the Duschee make sense for put-and-take fisheries.

As long as there is natural reproduction, I don't think every stream needs to be optimized for carrying capacity. Part of fishing for me is exploring. With heavy HI, every pool and run looks the same.

---------- Post added at 08:18 AM ---------- Previous post was at 08:09 AM ----------

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Originally Posted by tedwin183 View Post
I'll preface this by saying I have my PhD in entomology, and my profession is research, so I have some "skin in the game." All these HI projects really boil down to is effect size per dollar spent. If scouring a streams banks of any woody plants and reinforcing every bend with tons of field stone makes the greatest improvement to aquatic invertebrate habitat and/or trout spawning habitat, then it is a worthy endeavor from a conservation-only standpoint.
It may be a worthy endeavor from the trout-conservation aspect, but at the expense of the whole ecology.

I know what we see today isn't what was here before the white man and the brown trout. But instead of constantly second-guessing nature, let's let it do its job with as little human intervention as possible. I prefer HI that seeks to minimize human impact (buffer zones, riparian areas, wetlands) rather than other types (armor, artificial pools, removing plants).

Just my 2 cents. My apologies if I come across as adversarial. My mother grew up on the Pine and having seen what that stream has been through in the past 30 years, I have some strong opinions. It's a much better trout stream, but my grandfather wouldn't recognize it.
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Old 01-10-2017, 09:29 AM
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Default Re: Habitat Improvement in the Driftless

@diamond rush... Pine is probably a prime example of a stream that has needed the work. Now upstream of the bridge I've never seen the before pictures but I'd fished the section below the bridge that just had HI done about 7 years ago and must say that section definitely needed it. 6'+ high walls... mud and silt everywhere. Clearly it looks nothing like it did before after the HI. And it's a lot of hard armor with plenty of sloping now. It fishes much better than it did before and once the grass grows in it looks very natural from afar. There's some sections that make me go "wtf?" But overall that job was done well. Imho that stream fishes well and it's probably due to all the work that's been put into it.

Now back to my other stream that Steve and I fished the other day... and it makes me wonder... did they do it as a preventative measure... was the landowners hope of less severe flooding more in play? Because this stream has an amazing brook trout population. It's not like the numbers plummeted. Just about any time I'd fish it would be a banner day. Sure it had some high walling and erosion but the trout population was healthy. So why the HI?
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Old 01-10-2017, 09:55 AM
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Default Re: Habitat Improvement in the Driftless

I don't want to hijack your very interesting discussion, but it reminded me of some stream improvements done on the local river by some fishermen some years back.

6,000 to 8,000 years ago to be more precise. During the middle archaic period

These may not be natural, but the casual observer wouldn't realize that unless it was pointed out to them.
And while they were originally built as weirs, they still function as habit improvements.
Even after all this time.
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Old 01-10-2017, 10:07 AM
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Default Re: Habitat Improvement in the Driftless

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Originally Posted by itchmesir View Post
@diamond rush... Pine is probably a prime example of a stream that has needed the work. Now upstream of the bridge I've never seen the before pictures but I'd fished the section below the bridge that just had HI done about 7 years ago and must say that section definitely needed it. 6'+ high walls... mud and silt everywhere. Clearly it looks nothing like it did before after the HI. And it's a lot of hard armor with plenty of sloping now. It fishes much better than it did before and once the grass grows in it looks very natural from afar. There's some sections that make me go "wtf?" But overall that job was done well. Imho that stream fishes well and it's probably due to all the work that's been put into it.
Totally agree about the Pine. 30 years ago, the entire stream looked like the portion they did HI on the past couple years. But it runs directly off corn fields, and still has cows in the stream. It also has easy access and is well-known. It's the perfect example of the type of stream to make into a trout park. No issues there. But don't make every stream look like that.

I'll try to dig up some pics of my brother and I fishing off the old School Section Rd bridge. That's where I caught my first trout (with worms on a ShopKo fishing pole).
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Old 01-10-2017, 11:16 AM
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Default Re: Habitat Improvement in the Driftless

I'm not at all sure this is a widespread problem in the Driftless but we have a local stream that eroded completely through the limestone stream bed. (incised channel?). It has sections of very high banks so it was a muddy mess and candidate for restoration. DNR did a mixed approach on this one. 1000ft of trout park (already had 500 ft forever. Left the other mile of stream natural and VERY tough to fish during summer the way some of us here like it.

I am looking forward to exploring more of the famous Iowa creeks this summer. They took a real beating in 2016 and I am curious to see how they naturally recover. Hopefully the 7" rain events stay away a few years. Most every HI project was thoroughly tested last year.
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Old 01-14-2017, 06:46 AM
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Default Re: Habitat Improvement in the Driftless

Republicans target water quality law for repeal | Minnesota | postbulletin.com

A lingering part of this conversation on habitat improvement is agriculture, which in the part of the world I live, is not consistent with how they treat all waterways.

The disappointing part for me in the whole buffer strip discussion is the fact that the bill was created to simply to protect waterways. Yet, now it becomes a money issue. Pay the farmers some money for the hassle and continue with the longstanding tradition of already subsidizing their profession.

A situation like this makes it hard to look at the farming class as stewards of the land .
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Old 01-14-2017, 08:28 AM
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Default Re: Habitat Improvement in the Driftless

I really like the work that is done in Wisconsin. I started fishing Wisconsin about 15 years ago, after I moved from PA to IL. What I really hated about the areas I fished in PA was that PA spent, in my opinion, most of their money on stocking and not nearly enough on habitat improvement. When I started fishing the Driftless, I was amazed at how that was completely different. We can debate PA and their processes in another thread.

I've seen improvements in the WI that are so old that they actually look like they were part of the stream forever - of course they're not. But I wouldn't consider it landscaped.

Click the image to open in full size.

I also like the way that many of the streams and rivers I have fished have a nice balance of improved as well as unimproved, such as this shot here on an "improved stream"

Unimproved Section:
Click the image to open in full size.

Improved Section:
Click the image to open in full size.

One of my favorite streams in the Driftless:

Unimproved Section:
Click the image to open in full size.

Improved Section:

Click the image to open in full size.

To me, I don't consider either of these examples as trout golf courses, but rather improvements along a singular river in different sections that provide protection to the habitat that have persevered over a long period of time and foster sustaining trout populations.

Same stream - unimproved.

Click the image to open in full size.

There are certainly many areas along many different streams like the picture below that are not my favorite. But to me, the benefit I've seen of these is that they address a particular section of a river to provide protection in a particular section that needed it for one reason or another:

Click the image to open in full size.

This stream has a lot of improvements in many different sections - I enjoy fishing the unimproved sections such as the section below. I'm making a non scientific assumption that the improved sections help this section as well in the long run:

Click the image to open in full size.

I have seen some rivers and creeks in the Driftless that really are troutscaped. There is a section on the Blue that comes to mind... I'm glad they're there and glad the hard scape provides habitat to protect the fish. But I've seen enough positives in my years there that I welcome the work for long term protection of the fisheries.
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Old 04-24-2017, 10:31 AM
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Default Re: Habitat Improvement in the Driftless

More pics from a recent HI project that incorporated woody debris instead of rock for bank stabilization.

Click the image to open in full size.

Click the image to open in full size.

Yesterday, I happened to run into the contractor who provided what little rock the project employed. He was planting trees and took a few minutes to talk about the project. The short of it is that admittedly, he's no engineer, but having been around these projects for thirty years, he was disappointed that the plan called for such much woody debris and not rock. That stretch has seen two major floods in the past year, tearing our some of the woody debris and eroding banks in other areas. Some of this could have been prevented by utilizing more rock for bank stabilization, but the project opted for woody debris instead. His disappointment also lied in the fact that they had to go back in and repair damaged areas that could have been shored up prior.

It's hard to support your local trout restoration efforts if the trend is to continue to implement woody debris in favor of hard armoring the banks in place. For those of you who live in the Driftless, you can see first hand the damage that flooding does to our streams, especially those vulnerable areas that have no cover. And these floods aren't the old "hundred year flood." They seem to be happening routinely and woody debris is no match for their destruction.
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