Paint Creek may not carry the same cachet as the famed “holy waters” of the Au Sable River, but for many southeast Michigan trout anglers, having a thriving brown trout fishery right in their backyard is a blessing.
“We call this our local gem”, says Jason Davis, Vice President of the Clinton Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited (TU), referring to the 15 miles of Paint Creek that runs from the dam at Lake Orion to the confluence with the Clinton River. Supporting this claim are studies conducted by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources which show that despite being geographically located in a portion of the state more likely to support warm water species like bass, brown trout thrive here.
The reason can be attributed to Paint Creek’s excellent water quality – water temperatures rarely exceed 70 degrees thanks to significant groundwater inflow and a 1991 modification to the dam in Lake Orion that draws cooler water from the lake bottom. To supplement the native brown trout fishery, the MDNR annually stocks Paint Creek with small numbers of brown trout.
Paint Creek also benefits greatly from the efforts of community and environmental support groups like the Clinton River Watershed Council (CRWC), Friends of the Paint Creek Trail and four local chapters of Trout Unlimited.
Trout Unlimited (TU) has supported habitat improvement on Paint Creek for more than 25 years and it was one of their earlier stream bank erosion prevention efforts that was the focus of a recent TU project.
Considered state of the art when it was built 25 years ago, a wooden retaining wall to prevent stream bank erosion was no longer functional. Years of spring flooding had completely washed away the earth behind the wall. To prevent further erosion and deposition of silt downstream, a new structure was needed – one that would use the root systems of native grasses to prevent high water from washing away the soil.
Davis, who also guides on both the Clinton River and Paint Creek, coordinated the activities related to the removal of the old retaining wall and construction of the new stream bank. Thanks to a grant from the national TU organization, the Clinton Valley Chapter of TU was able to purchase the required materials – stakes, coir logs and top soil – and rent the necessary equipment. Davis also consulted with the CRWC to determine the optimal stream bank design and worked with the city of Rochester Hills to schedule the project during a period when the trail would be closed for repairs to a bridge.
Once the necessary Department of Environmental Quality permits were obtained, all that remained was the easy task of recruiting volunteers from each of the four local TU chapters – Clinton Valley, Paul H. Young, Vanguard and Challenge – to perform the hard work of removing the old retaining wall, sculpting the stream bank, spreading new top soil, installing and staking the coir logs and planting new rye grass and dogwood trees.
Given the importance and popularity of this unique southern Michigan trout stream, the large turnout came as no surprise.