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North Branch Wiscoy Creek Habitat Enhancement Project (2011)


The North Branch of Wiscoy Creek in Wyoming County is a high quality wild brown trout stream. Much of the North Branch was cleared for farming in the 1800's and had been pastured by cattle until the mid 1900s. This disturbance left a stream that is abnormally wide and very shallow, providing very little in-stream shelter for adult trout. The stream banks in much of the stream are stable, but densely overgrown with alder, making angling difficult. Due to abundant ground water, the stream has excellent water quality, with cold temperatures and very stable flow. Wild brown trout reproduction in the entire four mile long stream is outstanding.

In 2009, a 0.6 mile section of public fishing rights easement was purchased on the stream, making it eligible for habitat work in 2011 (N. Branch Wiscoy Creek PFR map (PDF) (509 KB)). The habitat enhancement work took advantage of the stream's potential to support a high abundance of quality size wild brown trout by retaining the stream's stability, decreasing the average width, increasing the depth and greatly increasing the amount of overhead bank shelter for adult wild trout.

Habitat Enhancement Work

Lunker structures being installed on outside of creek bend.
"Lunker" structures being installed on
outside of creek bend.

In May of 2011, Trout Unlimited volunteers planted 1,110 shade trees along the project area to provide shade and future large woody structure for the stream. Over a two week period in mid-July 2011, Region 9 Fisheries staff, with extensive cooperation from USFWS, Wyoming County SWCD, NYS DOT and over 325 hours of volunteer effort from WNY Chapter of Trout Unlimited installed 57 "Lunker" structures (456 total feet) along a 2,100 foot section of public fishing area on the North Branch. The crib-like structures were installed along the outside of bends, held in place by rebar and then had a new stream bank constructed over top of them, forming an artificial undercut bank. This was done to increase habitat for adult wild brown trout in this highly production stream.

Completed lunkers on same creek bend as previous picture
Completed lunkers on same creek
bend as previous picture.

Areas where the structures were installed were deepened to approximately two feet, and the stream width was narrowed by 1/4 to 1/3. The Lunker structures were built off site, in June, by Trout Unlimited volunteers. Prior to the work, this stream section was overly wide, shallow and overgrown with alder from past land use practices. This was the most extensive trout stream habitat enhancement done in Region 9 in several decades and would not have been possible without extensive multi-agency cooperation and over 660 hours of effort from Trout Unlimited and other volunteers.

Completed cross log and lunkers.
Completed cross log and lunkers.

Funding for this project came from a Great Lakes Basin Fish Habitat Partnership grant (Great Lakes Restoration Initiative). In September and October, 258 feet of additional fish habitat was installed, utilizing logs and boards left over from the project. This brought the total amount of fish cover added to 714 feet (34% of the project length). We will be planting shade trees in areas where Lunkers were installed, in spring 2012.