Trash Fishing On The Ohop

by Charly Kearns | May 2016

Charly Kearns

Charly Kearns, Land Steward

April marked the trash fishing opener on Ohop Creek.  If this seems like an odd statement to you, let me explain.  This past winter saw several flood events in the Lower Ohop Valley.  This is to be expected, considering that most of the valley is a floodplain and it is not unusual for the creek to over top its banks during heavy winter rains. However, one unfortunate consequence is the garbage that ends up in Lower Ohop Creek, including many large chunks of Styrofoam from floating docks that wash downstream from Ohop Lake. The recently installed engineered log jams in Ohop Creek act like giant colanders and strain out a significant amount of trash.  Since trash in the stream doesn’t sit well with me, it was time to find some remedies.

Tools of the trade: Trash fishing with “chopsticks”

So, our trusty interns Hannah and Julian joined AmeriCorps member Claire Cook and me for an afternoon of trash fishing.  While I could have created better tools, given unlimited time and resources, this was done on the fly.  I grabbed all the long-handled, sharp objects I could find lying about, and we got to work.  These tools included a tree pruning saw with a long wooden handle, a long PVC conduit pipe sharpened into a spike, and an iron hanging plant stand with decorative hooks.

Teamwork makes the dream work

Wrangling Styrofoam

It didn’t take us long to develop our technique.  For the most difficult to reach objects, the far-reaching pruning saw was the best choice.  For any objects with a handle or an opening, the “Shepard’s hook” plant stand did the trick. For smaller pieces of foam, the PVC spike could skewer like nothing else.  We even used the saw and the PVC tube like chopsticks to grab small plastic bottles from the creek.  The whole situation started to feel like we were playing one of those coin-operated claw games you find at arcades, only we hoped to catch an empty beer can instead of a stuffed animal.

Landing a chest freezer

Charly lands a chest freezer in Ohop Creek

Conversation inevitably turned to how to create the perfect trash fishing tool. It would have a lightweight, telescoping handle with a grabber, a spike on the end, and a hook that could be cast out on a piece of rope.  We have not submitted a patent on this tool yet, so feel free to create a prototype of your own (just let me be involved in the testing stage).

At the end of the afternoon, we had landed at least a dozen large chunks of foam, a tire, a pile of bottles and cans, and the pièce de résistance: a compact chest freezer.  We removed an impressive amount of debris from Ohop Creek, but I’m still kept up late some nights thinking about the one that got away.

We’ll just have to go back another day and try our luck again.

Ohop Creek flooding_upstream at Hwy 7 Bridge - Brian Combs photo

Winter flooding in the Lower Ohop Valley (photo: Brian Combs)