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Ronan's report

Tuesday 11th October, 2011

Sometimes little things can really surprise you.

A couple years ago I came across a road crew working in the rain. They were putting in a small ditch culvert where water was coming from a spring fed wet area in the hillside. The wet area was small, maybe the size of a tennis court, with nothing upstream of it. The road cut through the bottom of it and there was a 6 inch wide channel from the ditch, about 500 metres, to a small tributary of a small river. To be honest, you couldn't see the channel in most places through the grass that grew across it.

I only stopped to chat with the crew because I knew in the next day or two they would be working on a creek crossing farther down the road. I got out and was walking to the bulldozer when a splash caught my attention. There were fish trapped in the outlet at the end of the new culvert.

I went down for a closer look and saw a half dozen 6 to 8 inch brook trout that had somehow made it up through the grass to this little culvert. There was really nowhere for them to go. The wet area upstream was not deep enough for them to live in, but the conditions must have been perfect for them to follow the spring water to a place where they thought they could spawn.

The construction guys were more amazed at the fish than I was and didn't have any problems shutting down work and fixing the culvert and outlet so the fish could go up or back down when they chose to move.

A spawning season later, I went back to the same culvert thinking that the channel would have been filled in and there would be no fish. Maybe because it had been a wet year, or maybe for some other reason, there were fish there again. In fact, this year there was a fully defined channel downstream of the culvert with coarse substrate that brookies could spawn in. Unfortunately cattle have heavily impacted the wet area on the upstream side of the culvert.

It seems that the trout knew what they wanted, and despite what we have been trained to recognize (or ignore) they took it anyway. I never cease to be amazed at what nature deems suitable, and against what odds a species will survive.


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