Plans to 'Fix'
The Great Fisheries
By Ted Waddell
LIVINGSTON MANOR April 7, 2000 -- At a press conference held at the
Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum (CFFCM), the NYS
Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced
its management plan for the Beaverkill Watershed.
The press conference was conducted on April 1, the
traditional opening day of the states trout fishing
Gerry Barnhart, director of DECs Division of Fish,
Wildlife and Marine Resources, DECs largest
division, is a hometown boy. He was born and raised in
nearby Roscoe. Barnhart graduated from Roscoe CS in 1970,
and later attended Paul Smith College in the Adirondacks
and Cornell University.
His first job in the field of environmental conservation
and protection was conducting surveys of fish killed in
the intake screens of a large powerplant along the
Delaware River south of Philadelphia, PA.
That was about as ugly a job as you could
imagine, recalled Barnhart. The one thing I
always use to think of was , This is the Delaware
and in there somewhere are a few drops of Beaverkill
water, so I can get through this!
Barnhart has worked for the DEC for about 20 years.
Barnharts family has been associated with the local
region for several generations.
In fact, Barnharts Pool on the Beaverkill is named
after his grandfather, Claude Barnhart, who once ran a
dairy farm on the flats just below the famed Junction
Pool, where the dancing waters of the Beaverkill and its
major tributary, Willowemoc Creek, converge.
Its a very special place for me, said
Barnhart. I do what I do today, because I grew up
here. I spent literally a zillion hours during my
formative years fishing in the river with my older
brother and close family friends.
Thats why I chose a career in natural
resources conservation, he added. Now
its time to give something back.
A New Initiative
Speaking on behalf of NYS DEC Commissioner John P.
Cahill, Barnhart announced that the DEC has launched a
new initiative to improve the legendary fishery of the
Beaverkill and Willowemoc through a comprehensive
watershed management plan.
During the late 1800s and the first half of the 20th
century, the Beaverkill watershed was subject to
extensive lumbering and agriculture, industries which
resulted in a substantial reduction in the water quality,
stability of the eco-systems and wild trout population.
According to the preliminary DEC study, the early
wilderness waters contained abundant
populations of native brook trout. Reductions in that
trout species led to stocking programs and the Beaverkill
watershed became one of the earliest systems in the U.S.
to be stocked with hatchery-reared brown trout
originating in Europe.
Brown trout thrived in the lesser disturbed sections of
the system and provided the angling challenge that made
fly fishing and fly tying an art form.
Since the mid 1900s, the watershed has witnessed a
gradual reforestation of hillsides and farmlands, but
stream corridors have been negatively impacted by
increased roadway development.
In recent years, studies have indicated that these
streams have been subject to extreme variability in
annual precipitation patterns and summer temperatures,
factors which directly affect the quality of the cold
water trout fishery.
In 1994, Trout Unlimited (TU) began an effort to
establish a fishery-focused watershed management program.
The project successfully obtained detailed information on
the socio-economic role and importance of the Beaverkill
and Willowemoc fisheries in the surrounding communities.
According to Barnhart, Trout Unlimited and fishery
scientists from Cornell University will help DEC
biologists and technicians conduct a wide array of
scientific studies and monitoring programs to build a
strong foundation for the development of a watershed
Doug Stang, Chief of DECs Bureau of Fisheries,
called the management plan a priority project
and said it will cost approximately $250,000 per year
over the next three years of intensive efforts to gather
data. He noted the plan may take up to five years to
Every six months, we will host open houses for the
public so we can exchange information and get
ideas, he added.
DEC will collect data on the fishery through extensive
creel and angler surveys, stream flow and water
temperature monitoring, research on tributary trout
production, estimates of wild trout population and
identification of influences of the watershed and
The Beaverkill and Willowemoc are revered by
anglers as the birthplace of American fly fishing and the
historic focus of American recreational trout
fishing, said Barnhart. I believe this
project will set a new standard for scientifically sound
community-based management of New Yorks magnificent
This is all leading up to a comprehensive
management plan developed between a couple of agencies
and the local folks in the community, he added.
The plan is to make this place not only as good as
it used to be, but to make it a lot better for the