I thought about creating this post well before the end of the year and realized that it might turn out to be an entry that would be quite short. Well, things happen – even when they don’t.
Winter – January 1st through March 19, 2020
January first through most of February, and even into the beginning of March, I didn’t see many changes compared to previous years. We didn’t get a lot of snow and I was ok with that. Starting in January through February we got tidbits of information regarding what would be a looming problem that would dominate the world this year – Covid-19, a corona virus. I don’t remembering hearing much about it until February or March. I distinctly remembered thinking that this was going to hit and drastically affect our daily lives. Sure enough, come about the middle of March, cases were starting to pile up. Everyone’s routine changed and the phrase “the new normal” (which I despise) popped up in the media.
This part of the calendar year doesn’t see a lot of activity for SRS usually. We lay pretty low through the winter – with the exception of maybe visiting a few fly tying shows (not as a function of the SRS club but on a personal level). However, these shows were for the most part, if not entirely, canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Slate Run Sportsmen’s calendar year runs March 1st to April 30th of the following year. So let’s get into the SRS year.
The Covid-19 situation led SRS Board members to decide and cancel the Spring Regular Membership Meeting and the annual clean-up which we’ve participated in for many years.
While members didn’t get together, the SRS board met a few times to discuss if we should hold regular membership meetings through Zoom – a video conferencing service that became quite popular this year. I know, from their personal experience told to me, that at least one of our SRS members had come down with, and recovered from this virus. There was also the cases of knowing someone who knew someone who had contracted Covid-19. As a result, it might have been a little more difficult to look on the bright side of things this spring – but it could be done.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) encouraged social distancing fishing. Staying at least six feet away from the next fisherman was suggested. I don’t know about you but when I go out fishing this area, if someone is within sixty feet I consider it encroaching! So the suggestion didn’t seem too difficult to adhere to.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom in 2020. There was some fishing to enjoy in the spring.
Besides the Covid-19 issue, the drought in Pennsylvania played a close 2nd in importance (if not most important). I’ve seen where it was reported that York County and east of the Susquehanna River was not considered in the drought area of the state. But nearly the rest of the state was in drought conditions and that was nowhere more apparent than in Slate Run. Pine Creek and the connecting tributaries were exceptionally low this past summer. While the first half of the year seemed a bit more normal for gauge height, the second half was clearly lower than normal. Over the past 4 years 2020 was on track with and lower than 2018(although you can clearly see that the month of June already started to trend lower mimicking 2018 – problem was 2020 deviated from there into July).
With the exception of the Christmas Eve precipitation event, it was a horribly dry second half of year in the area.
Gauge levels hovered below 1 foot in height for weeks and weeks. This meant disaster for the fish stocked in Pine Creek by the Brown Trout Club.
These fish congregated at the feeder streams that emptied into Pine Creek and were a source of curiosity for those that care for these fish. Then there were the people that would come and fish over them as they struggled just to survive. And worse yet, they were easy targets for people to pitch rocks at and harass even more. This led to a major die-off of the Brown Trout Club fish this year. The past two years saw higher than normal rain and temperatures that were moderate to see a number of fish hold over. This year was the other extreme, where the majority of fish either found a cold source of water or perished.
We must keep alert and be diligent when we see something happening on ‘our waters’. The bridge crossing Little Slate is being replaced or renovated and pilings were being driven in late summer. Any sediment added to Little Slate would put even further stress on those fish congregated at it’s mouth. We must make sure that those working on this project restrict sediment from being swept into Little Slate Run as they work as this would put further stress on the trout struggling there. This practice should be followed for any project where work is being performed on the waters with trout populations.
There were several eagles working Pine in Slate Run this year. I saw several and they seemed to congregate across the creek on a partially dead tree in August and September. I may have even seem a golden eagle as it was roughly all brown and may have been slightly larger than the bald eagles observed.
There was a young bear roaming the neighborhood too. We saw this guy a few times this past year.
One time we saw this bear walking down the rail to trails path until it stopped, perked it’s ears up, and then took off up the trail till it just passed our place – running across the yard into the tree line.
The couple of times I saw this bear, it did not appear to be suffering from mange thankfully. I hope it isn’t a descendant of the bear/s that have broken into cabins in Slate Run. I strongly hope it didn’t learn from it’s Mother to break into cabins and expect handouts.
Feeding bears is at the very least, unwise, and at the most, detrimental to their health when they learn that they can break into cabins and get a free lunch. Such was the case for one bear that was relocated (I believe a few times) but kept coming back and breaking into places. It was, as a last resort, sadly put down (this may have happened last year – not in 2020). This all happened because people fed it. Do not feed the bears!
The colors were pretty spectacular since we had such a dry year.
Since I wasn’t fishing as much as normal due to the low water levels, I hiked a bit. My fishing friend took me to the Algerine Natural Area and we hiked way back into it one fine late summer day. It was a bit of tough going but was a really nice place to hike. We went across Gamble Run Road for another hike a week later. This one was much less congested and we actually hiked on some trail as part of the course we took.
The wife and I hiked the Ruth Will Trail in the beginning of October.
2020 was an election year. I hope everyone that was registered got out and used their right to vote in this election. If you did not, then we should hear no complaining from you about the state of affairs for the next 4 years. This is our country – we have the right – use your right to express how you feel about the leadership in our country by voting.
As a follow-up to the election, it appears that there will be a change in administration for the country. I hope this will mean a bit more concentration and protection of our environment. Time will tell.
The Brown Trout Club stocked in the fall this year. There was trouble at the ‘normal’ place where they got their fish. But there were many elements about this year that were not normal. So why should the Brown Trout Club have a normal year too? Still, they persevered and stock ‘The Stretch’ I believe on November 6th this year. The fish came from the Blooming Grove Hunting & Fishing Club. A quick google search shows it’s located in Hawley, Pennsylvania – a bit east of Scranton.
While it is still technically fall, the telltale signs of winter showed up in central Pennsylvania in mid-December. A Nor’easter dumped up to about 24 inches of snow through a stretch in central PA. Further north and south didn’t get as much. It’ll take more than one snowstorm to offset the drought – but this certainly will help.
Last, but not least, the ATV community got an early Christmas present in the form of approval of a change to DCNR policy which will allow much more use of ATV on connector trails in Pennsylvania. This link https://www.media.pa.gov/pages/DCNR_details.aspx?newsid=706 will take you to the official announcement where the DCNR approved this action and it took effect immediately (November 19, 2020). There are several links within that page that allows the viewer to see the public comments of the proposal (when it was a proposal) including ATV management principals, recommendations on how DCNR and others could enhance motorized recreation in Pennsylvania, ATV Trail Development and Management Policy and ATV riding in state forests.
Time shall tell how this action will affect Slate and Cedar Runs.
While this portion of the year is only a week or so (till calendar year end and for the sake of this summary), the Covid-19 cases were spiking over most of the country and Pennsylvania was not exempt to this increase. The distribution of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines started. Hopefully by this time next year we’ll have enough people vaccinated that we can claim to have a handle on Covid-19. Time will tell.
This year, just before Christmas, a gift was given to Slate Run and the Pine Creek watershed – rain! It looks like Christmas eve provided about two and a half inches of precipitation to the area! And over a 48 hour period there were places (like between Slate Run and Manor Fork) that might have gotten closer to three inches or precipitation. The gauge “Pine Creek at Cedar Run” shot up to close to 9 feet due to this precipitation. After this horribly hard drought of a summer, it was a very nice gift indeed! Hopefully winter snows will accumulate on the mountains and do its magic by allowing much to soak down into the aquifer and help next spring.
There’s still a lot of winter left that will go on next year’s ‘year end summary’. So this will have to suffice for now. It’s close enough to actual calendar end of year and I hope nothing catastrophic happens to the Pine Creek Valley between now and then.
To everyone, Happy New Year!
Till we see each other again, … UB
p.s. just had to re-post this picture , one of my favorite of the past year …