Choconut Creek

Pioneer Joseph Addison established a farm on the banks of Choconut Creek in 1811.  Back then it is said that Mr. Addison could shoot deer from the porch of his farmhouse to provide meat for his family and the trout were so plentiful in the creek that he could wade in and catch them with his bare hands.

Joseph Addison House, as it appears now, close to 200 years old...

Joseph Addison's farmhouse, as it appears now, close to 200 years old (pic courtesy of 1811 Addison House B&B)

Historic Addison House stands proud with years, now a restored bed and breakfast inn, and Choconut Creek still flows the same 40 circuitous miles through hemlock-wooded gorges, valleys thick with hardwoods and across farmland that has been tilled for nearly two centuries.  The creek passes by modern-day Vestal, once the site of Iroquoian longhouses, on its destination to the Susquehanna River.

The Addison House and farm (http://www.1811addison.com/index.htm)

The Addison House and farm (http://www.1811addison.com/index.htm)

The unusual name of the creek is of Native American Indian origin; “Choconut” is a corruption of the Nanticoke word “tschochnot” meaning “place of tamaracks”.  A second interpretation is derived from the word “chugnut” which was the name of a small Indian tribe living under the protection of the Iroquois. The “chugnut” established villages on opposite sides of the Susquehanna River at the mouths of Choconut Creek and its northern sister-stream, Nanticoke Creek.  The Continental Army made it their mission to destroy these settlements since the Iroquios supported the British during the Revolutionary War, and this paved the way for the first European settlers, who came by way of New York and Connecticut in 1806 and built homes along the Choconut.  One among those new arrivals described this area of Pennsylvania as follows:

“The country is, as respects the surface, what is generally called a ridgy or rolling surface – very few of the hills too steep for cultivation, and their summits equally fertile with any other part. In the hollows or valleys there are delightful clear streams, a proportion of  which are large enough for any kind of water-works, and they abound with trout and other kinds of fish. I think it is the best watered country in my knowledge.”

In some ways, the area surrounding Choconut Creek has not changed much since the pioneer days.  There are still plenty of deer, bear, turkey, and even a few bobcat roaming the rural hills and valleys.  Coyote have taken the place of wolves, one of which treed a neighbor of Joseph Addison.  But it’s the creek that’s of interest here, and my research shows it may not be quite what it was when old Joe Addison waded its spring-fed waters.

The stream is classified as a warm water fishery by the Soil and Water Commission, but the commission also reported in 2001 that native populations of Brook and Brown trout can be seen in the Choconut Creek and many of its tributaries.  Indeed, some earlier posts in this blog prove that brookies are resident in at least one of the creek’s tributaries.

NoName Brook - Choconut Creek trib...

NoName Brook - a Choconut Creek tributary.

Flyfishers are aware that mayflies, stoneflies, and caddisflies are indicators of good water quality. At several creekside stops on a recent fall outing, caddis could be seen in abundance along with a few mayflies.  Their presence on the Choconut is encouraging…

A nice run by a roadside bridge...

A nice rocky run by a roadside bridge...

Also encouraging was stream structure – from pools with some depth…

The head of a deeper pool on the Choconut...

The head of a deeper pool on the Choconut...

to well-shaded runs…

Shade that brookies like...

The kind of shade that brookies like...

and long pools with nice flows.

Upper Choconut pool - not far from old Joe's place...

Upper Choconut Creek pool - not far from Addisn House...

But noticeably missing in all the places I checked were trout.  As much as I looked, with polarized sunglasses I might add, I could not find a one.  Could old Joe’s accounts of brook trout heaven in his backyard be accurate?  The landscape has not changed much from the days of old, or has it?

After much thought and more research on the matter, I contend that Joseph Addison was, in fact, not sipping whiskey when he made his claims of a creek stacked with brook trout.  When he first settled his piece of heaven, every inch of the hills and valleys were dense with hardwood and fir.  The hemlock shaded the ground, preserving the snow pack deep into late spring, and kept groundwater and the flows of the brooks and creeks cool during the heat of the summer.

The history of the Catskills is testament to the deforestation that changed that region from a haven for brook trout, to a fishery for brown and rainbow trout – “invasive” species if I dare say so.  In this historic mountain forestland, hemlocks 4 feet in diameter were once commonplace in what can best be described as an ancient climax forest, deep in duff with topsoil intact, covering the mountains like a huge sponge that retained cool water and absorbed the shock of heavy rains.  The white pines were claimed first for ship’s masts in the early colonial days and then the great hemlocks were felled and bark-stripped to feed the leather-tanning industry.  By the 1880’s, the effect was a bare mountainous landscape covered only in scrap, slashing, and broken trees.

As the Catskills went, so, most likely, did the Choconut Valley.  Just north of the place were leather tanning factories that fed a burgeoning shoe industry in Endicott, NY.  And beyond that, the farms blossomed to feed a growing America.

Choconut Creek flowing through pasture...

Choconut Creek flowing through pasture...

While the upper stretches of Choconut Creek may hold a few brookies or browns – and even a few small creek trophies that have the place all to themselves – the creek is indeed a shadow of the fishery it once was in the days of “old Joe”.  The best measure of what it could be can be found just up the road in Jones Park.  There, as previously posted, the hemlocks and hardwoods have been left alone to do their job.  The result, in mere puddles in the fall, is clear to anyone who wants to look.  At least there, Joseph Addison’s claim lives on…

Tight lines…

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8 Responses to “Choconut Creek”

  1. I have fished this creek up into the headwater for the past 10 years. I have caught one 10″ brook trout that appears to be a “stockie”. I’m not sure how it got up that creek… The only other fish have been smaller creek chubs. However, I have never fished any of the tributaries to Choconut Creek. The history of this area has a broader sense to it… as the Nanticoke Indians resettled for a short time outside of Wilkes-Barre, PA. (Perhaps just a season or two for hunting?)

    The Nanticoke Creek and the City of Nanticoke also herald their names from the same Indian tribe and mention on town monuments that the Nanticoke tribe did live in Luzerne County when they left the area of Binghamton in the years of 1760’s to the 1770’s.

  2. I have fished in the headwaters of Choconut Creek. But never in any of the feeder streams that flow into the Choconut. They only fish I have caught were chubs on the small side. But I like catching chubs! Let’s face it, chubs need love too!

    The Nanticoke Tribe used to migrate into the Wyoming Valley prior to the establishment of the ring of forts in the Valley (Forty Fort, Wintermute Fort, Freeland Fort). They had hunting grounds near the City of Nanticoke and Nanticoke Creek. (Hence the name of the city and creek) Prior to the Sullivan Campaign the Nanticoke tribe moved back from the fringes of thier settlements located near the present towns of Great Bend and Hallstead. They came back into the area of the Susquehanna and Chenango Rivers due to safety fromthe Iriquois Confederation and large warrior villages of Unadilla (along with a Tory presence). Safety in numbers I guess?

  3. sorry about the multiple posts. I was having computer issues and didn’t realize it had posted the first time.

    After reading your Choconut Creek post, it made me want to review my fishing journal. After reviewing my journal notes of the last 5 years I had realized that I didn’t catch the trout on Choconut Creek, it was the headwaters of Gaylord Creek. In my notes I wrote; “Assuming I’m in Choconut”. I do believe that at the time I thought I was in Choconut Township instead of Apolacon/Middletown Township fishing Gaylord Creek.

    However, when I quickly reviewed my notes to type my reply here… I thought it meant I was FISHING the Choconut. Again, sorry.

    • stflyfisher Says:

      Dave – no problem – I appreciate all comments! The fact that you have not caught trout in Choconut doesn’t surprise me, but it’s a shame the creek couldn’t be improved. It is still amazing to me the sheer number of small native brookies I found in Jones Park, with a few decent ones thrown in, and it shows what a difference habitat makes as the park is heavily forested – basically untouched. I thought possibly those fish existed in the Choconut – perhaps they spend some time there when the water is cold but retreat up the brooks when it warms up.

      Interesting history comments too. Nanticoke Creek is another creek I’ll cover – there is potential for some native fish way up in some of the headwaters – out TU chapter has temp-mapped it and found 50 degree water in spots due to springs. Anyhow – more on that another time. Again, thanks for your comments!

  4. John Dwyer Says:

    WOW this is outstanding, you sure did an excellent job on this, make me want to go there right now 🙂 maybe next year.

    • stflyfisher Says:

      John – appreciate the nice comments. Let me know if you’re ever down this way – we’ll have to hit one of the Catskill streams… Tight lines…

  5. Bob, Nicely written piece here! What a beautiful little creek and B&B. Too bad about the lack of natives–a stream choco full of brookies would be a delight to come across.

  6. stflyfisher Says:

    Scott – thanks for the compliment. Maybe some day, the pasture and farmland around the creek will revert back to forest – then the brookies will be back…

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