Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Stony Brook, Princeton, South Branch Raritan River, and First Shoreline Trout

Picking up where I left off in the last post about comparing Stony Brook's and the South Branch Raritan's smallmouth populations, I still haven't explored my log for numbers from the 1970's, but I spoke to my brother Rick on the phone an hour ago, and he happened to mention that smallmouths are gone from Stony altogether. He walked the stream from Prettybrook to Province Line Road this summer, a distance of a mile in one direction, and got not a single hit, nor spotted any bass at all.

How this can be, I don't know. "We used to catch 20 apiece on an outing." And my experience is the same, the stream loaded with bass. It never had much fishing pressure, except for trout in the spring. Rick's only clue is that over more recent years, the stream is running at a lower level; he thinks because of continued building development depleting the aquifer. I said maybe it has to do with fertilizer, but there are still plenty of sunfish.

Stony's been a loss for me over the past decade with depleted numbers on more than half a dozen outings, a stream that used to be a thriving ecosystem, and very important to my development as a human being since it was a wild place--no houses or buildings in sight for most of its length by far, just a couple of homes near Carter Road, Rosedale Road, Princeton Pike, 206. and far upstream in Pennington. My defenses dropped and I exercised senses, thought, and emotions free from the going fashions of the day. I spent a lot of time and the bass made it exciting; the clean water made experience at once fresh and timeless as the stream has flowed for many thousands of years. I suppose the bass have been there since not long after James Alexander Henshall delivered smallmouths from the native Midwest to the Northeast by steam locomotives in the 19th century.

I stopped at Round Valley today, and to my surprise, trout are in. Guy let me photograph his 18-incher, told me the water is 69 degrees and 71 yesterday, so apparently, maybe only apparently, I happened to be there on the day of first arrivals.