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onnoquenessing Creek Cleanup August 19

One thing I love about summer is the long daylight hours.  Getting home after work and grabbing my waders and gear to head down to the Connoquenessing Creek AKA “The Connie”  to sight fish is a weekly occurrence (just ask my soon to be wife…).  One of my favorite species to target is the common carp.  Carp are so underrated as a game fish and often get the misconception as dumb, lazy and a garbage fish.  If you want a fresh water fish that will peel fly line like you’ve just hooked a Suzuki Hayabusa, give carping a shot.  Carp are not the only species able to be caught on a fly; the Connie sustains a great population of smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, walleye and pike. It’s hard to believe that this same stream was deemed “2nd most polluted waterway in America in 2000.” 

                The Connie is roughly 60 miles long, and runs through an industrial city, farms, golf courses, camps and highways.  Needless to say there are plenty of opportunities for trash and anything else to get washed in from floods or thrown in from careless citizens (when I say anything… I mean anything).  Just about my whole life I have always heard how disgusting the Connie is, so much in fact that local fisherman, have had their lines decay from the water much faster than anywhere else. 

                Since I caught my first trout on a fly I tied when I was 7, I have always been a “trout bum.”  I remember riding the school bus over the Connie and thinking “man if only there were trout in that stream.”  I never considered fishing a stream that I have been told my whole life is polluted and nothing could possible live in it.  Once I turned 16, being able to drive myself fishing opened up new waterways.  I was no longer just fishing trout streams with my father on weekends. 

                Eventually I did make my first trip to the Connie, probably around 2012, and I couldn’t believe it.  Sure there were tires, shopping carts, metal scraps, tarps hanging from snags and pipes but THERE WAS A LOT OF FISH!  Even though the stream appeared to be lifeless at first glance, it was still a waterway that sustained fish and plenty of other creatures.  Residents of Western PA still believe that nothing can thrive in the Connie, I don’t feel bad letting them have that opinion, that’s just more fish for me. 

                The Allegheny Aquatic Alliance is an organization that loves the Connie as much as I do.  The group was formed in February 2012 by a husband and wife with the intent to help spread the word that we need to take care of our local water ways.  As I mentioned the Connie is widely known as a polluted stream in Western PA so it only made sense for the group, to organize stream cleanups a couple of times a year.  Each Connie Cleanup focuses on a different stretch.  Starting at the headwaters to where it joins the Beaver River.  Since the group’s beginning in 2012, they have held 6 Connie Cleanups. Volunteers led by the AAA have cleaned 50 miles and collected over 300,000 pounds of garbage, including over 3,500 tires. I have volunteered in the past and I was excited to help again this year.  

                This year there was roughly 100 volunteers, once everyone was signed in and given gloves, we were assigned teams and what specific sections of the stream our group will be working in.  My buddy and I were pretty excited to find out that the section we will be cleaning is the sections we are most familiar with due to floating by canoe and fishing.  The stream was low and clear which made it perfect to find garbage in the water and on the bank.  We were each given a canoe to load our garbage into.  It didn’t take long before things got interesting.  We found a hot water tank in two feet of water that was full of mud and rusted with holes.  We hoisted the water tank into the canoe and we noticed that mud was still splashing out through the baseball size holes.  We then realized that a mud catfish decided to take residents to the tank as a juvenile, grew larger, and nowt couldn’t escape.  With a couple smacks of a pry bar, we made a hole large enough to reach in and rescue the bottom dweller.  The fish was about two feet long, and I am sure it was happy to be released from the confinement of a water tank the rest of its life… During the remainder of the float (2 mile stretch) we found…

-Hot water tank (another one)

-Microwave

-Shower Stall

-30’ Corrugated Pipe

-Punching Bag

-18 Tires

-Mattress

-Box Spring (not found with the mattress)

-Car Hood

-Lamps

-Plastic Lawn Seats

-Propane Grill

– Vinyl Siding

– Buckets

-Sheet Metal

-Couch

-TONS OF BROKEN GLASS

                The goal of the Allegheny Aquatic Alliance is “Inform public of nonpoint source pollution and how each resident’s actions affect the whole community.  Educate the community of the growing threat of single-use plastics and the dangers of increased plastic waste.  Teach the community ways to reduce water pollution and promote green decisions.  Encourage citizens to make responsible choices and have respect for our planet and our precious resources.  Advocate water conservation methods and green landscaping techniques implement local waterway cleanup projects.  Organize local roadside cleanup projects.”  Christina Handley and her husband Mike Handley (the president and vice president of AAA) GET IT!  Every year the program contributes more and more with volunteers and donations.  It is great to see that others do care about our local water way and have concern for OUR environment’s future.

To find out more about the Allegheny Aquatic Alliance click on the link below.

http://alleghenyaquaticalliance.com/





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