Bear Creek is on the west side of the Bitteroot Valley near Victor. This week temperatures were about zero during the day and minus 16 during the night. We have plenty of water from the previous rains and now it is turning to ice. It is beautiful, but where are all the fish to go?
Click here to read a paper titled Role of Stream Ice on Fall and Winter Movements and Habitat Use by Bull Trout and Cutthroat Trout in Montana Headwater Streams.
An excerpt from the Conclusion: Complex mixes of habitat are needed to maintain suitable fall and winter habitat for stream resident bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout populations. Beaver ponds, deep pools, and submerged cover of large woody debris (LWD), boulders, and undercut banks are important components of this mix. Bull trout appear particularly susceptible to loss of habitat complexity. In the Bitterroot River drainage, bull trout are rare in watersheds with a high degree of disturbance (Clancy 1993) and without LWD or pools (Rich 1996). Shallow, wide streams not only lack suitable winter cover, but also promote subsurface ice formation (Chisholm et al. 1987; Brown et al. 1994). In degraded areas, activities that moderate fluctuations in winter stream temperature (i.e., riparian vegetation restoration) and that create deep water habitats (i.e., beaver reintroduction) may help alleviate poor winter habitat conditions.It is a scientific paper, a dry read, but if you are interested in trout habitat, you will find it very informative, yet there is still much to learn about ice and trout survival.
After I created this post, I remembered a photo I had taken on Sweathouse Creek in November. This is from the property that butts against Forest Service near the trailhead for Sweathouse Creek.
There is a county bridge (actually culverts topped with road gravel) across Sweathouse right here. These people just bought the chunk of land that is on both sides of the creek. They can access all of their land by the county bridge, but they wanted their own bridge. They got permission to build it. In the process, they are reaming out an area of the creek where they will are building a winding road and footings and a bridge.
You are seeing some of the woody debris and plant material that they have removed. I find it horrific that they did this. After reading the paper above, I am more disturbed about it. Just my opinion.