Tuesday, January 31, 2012

HABITAT RESTORATION

It's 9 AM and everybody's here at a cove on Cherokee Lake.
Every winter Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency replenishes and restores fish habitat on the lakes of East Tennessee.  I should say creates fish habitat because there isn't much habitat on these flood control lakes.  The water is drawn down in winter to allow space for additional water inflow due to flood emergencies.  This draw-down creates a situation where falling trees and tree limbs can not fall into the water.  Also water grasses such as mill foil can not survive because they would be located out of water high on a bank, dead, at the the shore line after draw-down.
Note the black plastic rope bundled on the trailer ramp
An effective measure taken to create fish habitat is the introduction of Christmas trees onto the now bare portions of the lake's shorelines during the low water situation.  Discarded Christmas trees are collected by businesses like Wall mart, Tractor Supply and other retail outlets that sell trees.  Certain state parks encourage folks to drop off their Christmas trees at drop points within park boundaries.  TWRA then dispatches teams to load the discarded trees on flat bed trucks and trailers and hauls them to predetermined sites around the lakes.   Our job today is to actually create the fish habitat on this peninsula using those collected trees.  This is only one small spot on one lake.  The trees are collected by the thousands and all are delivered to the huge reservoirs in East Tennessee for disposition.
Trailer used to haul trees to the habitat site
The trailer above is a simple affair that is capable of handling 15 to 20 trees.  After loading, an all wheel drive vehicle will pull them across the baron shoreline to the technicians waiting near the water.
There's about 200 trees in that pile upper left of the photo.  The little quad is heading for a narrow strip of shale dividing two bodies of water.  It is a natural bridge to the island we were working on.  It's also an interesting ride across it.
Richard drove across that narrow, soggy strip of shale over and over at personal risk to life and limb to deliver his precious cargo.  We pull the stops out for our fish down here.
A small group of workers unloads the trees and distributes them to positions on the shore line in preparation for the next operation.
The trees are placed 5 to a group, or "pod", with their trunk ends facing each other. 
After all the pods are set in place a two foot long pin with a cable loop at the top is driven into the soil at the juncture point where all the trunk ends come together.  Plastic rope is used to secure each tree to that peg to prevent the trees from washing away due to current and wave action.


Note the plastic line attaching the trees to the metal peg
These pods of trees will be under 20 to 30 feet of water in the spring when the water levels return to full pool (normal level.)  Fish will have a place to hide from predators and the trees will provide areas where fish can spawn.  Later on the trees will be prime haven for game fish and become destination points for anglers, if they can find them.  The addition of this artificial habitat is very necessary to the overall health of the fishery.
There now--you thought all I did was drive a 22 foot boat around in circles on the lake.
The habitat effort is huge and requires the efforts of many professionals to do it right.

The addition of those trees among the existing rocks and boulders has created a tremendous habitat for fish on that little island.  A job worth doing.  Reservoir Fisheries is our job.  It's our responsibility and it's not taken lightly.




This is called searching for arrow heads.

Above we can see two thoroughly worn out professional technicians catching their breath between loads of trees.  Actually they are two state workers doing what you usually see state workers doing.  Just kidding.

Today has been a delightful break from driving the boat all day.  I am not assigned to habitat restoration but it's great to be able to help out in the effort.  I hope you found this post interesting.  I will try to post more work activities in the future.  I need to show you what I do on a daily basis with the boat.  I'll work on that for you next time I'm on the lake.  I think you'll find it interesting.  I've got one more day of habitat duty and then back to cruising around in circles on the lake.  Keep a look out for the Scona Lodge piece.  I'm diligently working on it.  It's not an easy thing to write.  I might be making it harder than it really is.  See ya...







Saturday, January 28, 2012

INDIAN CREEK ON DOUGLAS LAKE

click photo to enlarge.
All the reservoirs in the Tennessee valley are fed by primary streams as well as secondary streams that flow into the main channel.  These feeder streams can be interesting.  The lake is lowered during the winter and that can't be changed.  The views, however, do change.  Douglas Lake, muddy as it is, has the Smoky Mountains as a back drop.  Side trips up some of the feeder creeks can offer some really nice views.  It just so happens that Indian Creek is on my schedule for today.  It flows directly from the direction of the mountains.  The views aren't spectacular because the creeks are really low and I can't traverse them to their ends which would be a lot closer to the mountains.  But, they allow me to approach closer than the main lake will allow.  Summertime on Douglas Lake should provide an entirely new visual experience when the water is at full pool (level).
Distant shots of mountains are difficult to attain and capture the actual colors at the same time.  The distance forces one to look through all the haze between himself and the mountain.  The further away the mountain, the more haze must be looked and photographed through.  The camera records the haze as well.  Light diffraction is another problem on distant photographs.  Oh well;  they're pretty pictures anyway.
Watch that first step, Ralph.
"Hey Ralph;  Where do you and Ethel live down there in Tennessee?"
"We have a house right on the lake.  We're right on the water.  We just walk out the back door and jump in."

All right. I won't start.
Manfriend and I motored clear up Indian Creek as far as we could on the right bank of the stream and returned down the left.  The creek was void of anglers.  Not one boat.  I thought it would be a good time to beach the boat and allow more time for fishermen to show up on the lake.  I am conscientious about running gasoline through this boat even though it's not my personal gasoline.  It's gasoline paid for out of the reservoir fisheries budget and that's where I work.  Ethically I can not run the boat around when I know the water has no fishermen on it.  It's just how I was raised I guess.  We'll make another run up the creek in a half hour.  It will be noon and will be a few fishing boats out by then.
Bridge over Indian Creek

I got an email from a friend up north asking how I have the time to take so many photographs and be working at the same time.  He has no idea about boats.  I can take my hand off the wheel and walk around behind the tower, sit on the bench seat, kiss Shade, write reports or eat a sandwich in perfect safety.  It ain't no car.  I much prefer a boat to a car.  Of course one wouldn't want to do any walking in front of the tower.  If the boat were under way and struck a floating log it could throw the driver clear off the boat.  Then I would have to float in the water while watching my beautiful 22 foot bay boat get smaller and smaller in the distance until it was a tiny black dot on the horizon.  In reality I would have my safety lanyard attached to the belt loop on my pants that would automatically shut off the engine when I fell over the side into the drink.  It wouldn't matter as I'd die of hypothermia in less than ten minutes.  Pleasant thoughts.  You can bet there would be a smile on my face cause I'm just a happy kind of guy.  I can't be hurt anyway.  I have insurance.  Actually I don't walk anywhere on the boat while it's moving.  That's asking for trouble.  In this weather one gets no second chance if he falls in the water.
I found a really nice spot to beach the boat and went for it.  Shade was all set for a romp on shore.
There really isn't anything to do on these shorelines when we stop.  The stops are to eat a sandwich and to let Shade exercise and use her nose to sniff new smells.  The terrain is nothing but mud, rock and shale.  Even the forest is so far up the hill it would take a helicopter to get up there.  The lakes back west of here are interesting in that they have all the flora and fauna imaginable.  Winter flowers and mammals are everywhere as well as a great variety of birds. They are in or near the Smoky Mountains.  The photography is great.   Most of all there are very few people.  The opposite is true of here.
An interesting little pile of stones.  The highlight of the day.
Photography is limited to seeing how many shades of brown I can photograph.  Sometimes there are interesting rocks that make nice photos.  I even saw a nice tree once way up on top of the shoreline.  I was going to take a picture of it but it was too far up the muddy hillside.  Sometimes a bird will fly over.  They rarely stop though.  I got excited when a Great Blue Heron flew over once.  He didn't stop either.   Oh well!.  One thing I do have and that's my sweetheart Shade.  I can rely on her to provide photographic material.
Wow;  this girl is sweet!  I can't believe she is the same dog I knew last year.  She's totally dedicated to me and has put all her trust in me to keep her safe.  She listens better than I deserve and is a "perfect" companion all day long.  She even takes silent commands.  I can point to the boat and she instantly runs top speed and leaps on board.  Sometimes she almost goes clear across the deck and off the other side.  Such exuberance!  The same holds true for the truck.  She started out the year refusing to get near the truck.  Now she bounces up and down beside it in the morning begging to be let in.  I figured that one out though.  She associated trucks with my old truck with the cap on the back.  That truck was in the accident that took my Douglas's life.  Shade was under the cap.  Once she understood she could be in the front seat with me, she was fine.
"Come on girl.  Hurry, hurry, run, run!"
"Good girl.  Good girl."

You can see a lot of debris in the shot above.  The waves carry all trash to the shorelines.  The tires in the background have old Christmas Trees tied to them and they are staked to the ground.  These abominations are known as fish attractors.  They create fish habitat.  The fish junk will obviously be under water and out of sight when the lake resumes it's full water level in the spring.
Here's something to get excited about.  Pretty rocks.  They're a nice shade of brown.
I still can't see why anyone would spend a million bucks to have a house on the edge of this desolation.  Oops!  Sorry.
It's time to get moving.  I need to make one more drive up Indian Creek.
My sweet companion is all tucked in out of the wind.  

Heading across the bay toward home.  The wind is up a bit.
There is one happy, contented girl.  There aren't many dogs who have the wonderful and exciting life that she has.  I can think of a few people who would envy her if they knew how wonderful her life really is.  She has finally gotten into my blood and I love her unconditionally.  "Right back at you Shade!"  
This entry was about one of my normal days on the lake.  There was nothing outstanding about it.  I love what I do no matter what you may think after reading my descriptions of the lake.  It's a work lake.   I can separate work and play quite easily.  I did put a lot of tongue in cheek moments in this entry.  I do hope you caught the sarcasm. 

The Scona Lodge tale is coming along nicely.  It's a real bear to write as there is nothing written about the lodge to research.  I have several lead in stories finished and am ready to work on the main story about Scona Lodge and the girl who grew up there.  Actually, it's as much about her as the lodge.  We'll see how it all works out soon.   It won't be long.  Thanks for looking in and please help a dog in need.

Monday, January 23, 2012

BAY AREA ON DOUGLAS LAKE

video
click photos to enlarge
I stayed up late last night working on the Scona Lodge blog entry and was really beat this morning.  Somewhere during the night I heard thunder and the sound of heavy rain hammering down upon the house roof.  I think all that rain action just made me sleep better.  I went out on the porch this morning with a coffee and found a fair sized tree limb hanging off the front porch roof.  I guess it was quite a storm.  Later on in the day I heard about the hail, tornadoes, and heavy rain that fell on Central Tennessee.  I slept through the whole thing.
I was scheduled to run the boat on Douglas Lake in the afternoon today in what is designated area 3.  Area 3 is a bay area of the lake without tributaries.  It amounts to a water corridor straight up the lake to a stopping point where I turn around and cruise back down to the start.  I would not be going on any side creeks or inlets and coves at all.  I knew this would be a very quiet day for fishermen as they do not fish in the bay areas very often.  Crappie and Walleye species are the targeted fish this time of year and those fish are not where I would be today;  nor would the fishermen.  This would be a good day to take Shade along for company.  That girl has turned in a stellar performance in the obedience category and has become a first class boat and woodland companion.  I pointed to the boat and she ran down the ramp and jumped onto the deck.  Not a word was needed from me.  I just pointed to the boat.  I don't know what has happened to her over the past couple months to make her so obedient.  She even runs to the truck in the morning and waits there for me.  Last month I couldn't get her near a truck.  Well;  she's a woman and can change her mind I guess.
This afternoon was unseasonably warm.  The sky was bright blue and sunny without much breeze.  I couldn't wait to get on the water.  We left the ramp and made for the main lake at about twenty miles per hour. 
I scanned the broad expanse of the lake and saw not one fishing boat.  We had just entered our area so we kept idling along carefully examining the shoreline for fishing boats.  As I said earlier;  I knew this would be an unproductive day.  Shade was being great company.  Sometimes I just like to look at her.
This is one contented girl.  She's almost asleep.  Funny girl!
Shade always looks straight into my eyes.  She knows she'll get her way by doing so.
We were on the lake an hour and a half and the wind had picked up just a little.  It actually felt good.  I couldn't get over how warm it was out here.  I can't wait until the lake fills up for the summer.  The mountains in the distance will be accented by the lake and the photography will be excellent.
I am told by reliable sources that Douglas Lake is a favorite stop for migrating shore birds in the spring.  All the species will be here.  The big camera will be on the boat daily.
The wind had kicked up a few knots rather quickly.  I don't like it when it does that.  Storms can occur out of nowhere when the wind acts like that.  I suppose it has something to do with the storms that occurred west of here.
The surface conditions changed within a minute and a half. Amazing!  The big boat was doing a crash and splash onto the rollers and white caps.  It isn't a big deal at all as this 22 foot bay boat can handle anything any of these lakes can dish out.
Shade seemed right at home in the turbulence.  She stood tall on the decks with muzzle in the wind and ignored the heavy seas.  She reminds me of another close golden friend who did likewise.
We talked to one fisherman and his wife about an hour ago and he had just arrived to the water a half hour before.  That was before the wind picked up.  I doubt they are still on the water now.  We had been running for two hours and starting to take a beating slamming into rollers.  There wasn't a boat in sight.  We would beach at the first opportune spot we came across and have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Oh yes;  Shade gets one too.

It wasn't the prettiest place to beach at but not bad for Douglas Lake.  It sure felt good to get off the bouncing deck of that boat for awhile.  Shade took off to inspect the beach area.  There's not much to inspect as it's all rock and mud.
There certainly isn't anything pretty about this beach.  Actually, it's ugly.  One has to remember that this will all be under water by March.  The water will be up there where the trees are. I like to walk around and scan the ground for fishing lures.  There are many, many of them stuck between stones and snagged on logs.

I wrote two stories yesterday that will set the stage for the third story which is about Scona Lodge.  I can't seem to get that place out of my head.  It's a little touchy writing a "story" that revolves around history.  The dates have to be accurate and decisions have to be made weather to use the names of living people who are associated with the story.  I wish I could just go camp there at Scona so I can get a real emotional bond with the place while I'm writing.  Maybe I could talk to a Haint.  I think I'd like that.
I think I have a mountain dog here.  "Shade;  look here!"
She snaps to attention at the command "look here!"  Perfect, instant response.

I guess you've noticed the absence of Falcor in the entries.  I had to find Falcor a foster home.  His obedience level was simply too low.  It wasn't his fault at all.  I fear I pushed him too fast too soon.  I made him get on the boat and in the truck trying to get him to react to those commands.  I think it was too much for an 8 month old pup to absorb quickly.  My work and my play times take me to dangerous situations and Falcor was ignoring all my commands "most of the time."  The simple boat dock or ramp is dangerous for a dog who doesn't obey.  There are trucks moving to and from the ramp, and some very quickly.  Aside from that, there is the issue of water.  I practically live on the water daily.  When I tell him to "come,"; I need him to get back here to me.  An example follows:   My boat approaches the dock and I cut the engine so it glides in without power.  It is gliding a bit fast and will contact the dock a little heavy.  When it does, the boat will suddenly and abruptly stop dead.  Falcor is standing on the very tip of the bow.  When that boat contacts the dock he will be hurtled forward and out of the boat.  Hopefully he lands on the dock.  He could be pinched between the dock and the boat.  So, when I see this and I yell  "come," I need him to move to me.  Falcor would not.  That is one example.  I won't bore you with more details.  I found him an absolutely wonderful home where he will be an indoor dog and loved very much.  At first I felt I had forsaken him but;  now I feel I've given him a new start on life.  He is in my heart and it wasn't easy to do but;  it was for his own safety.
It was time to hit the water and finish this run down the shoreline and get off this bucking horse.  I see shade;  I yell "Shade;"  she stops and looks at me and I extend my arm and point to the boat.  She's on her way.
She gets there well ahead of me.  Where did she learn to do that?  I never taught her hand signals.
She is amazing me.  Is this the dog I had for the past seven years?
I backed the boat off the beach and turned it toward the main lake.  The wind was whipping the water hard.

Every time the boat would slam down into the water off a roller; the wind would blow the resultant spray into the boat.  I was soaked in five minutes.





There was no way I was going to pull alongside another boat out here.  We're definitely heading for the ramp.





Shade was ignoring it all.  She stuck her nose out into the wind and loved every minute of it.  She was really liked the wind blown water spray wafting over her.  Is this really my dog?  Wonder if someone pulled a switch on me?
I'm proud of her.
I'm soaked.  The faster I go the more wind blown spray enters the boat.  We're almost back anyhow. 

Next two days off, weather permitting, will find us camped at the old Scona Lodge site.  Yep.  I've decided to visit with the Haints.  Keep your eye on the blog for the Scona Lodge story.  It;s the only one EVER written.  I hope you like it.

Your in my heart Douglas.  I miss you constantly golden boy