WILLIAMSON, W.Va. — When people consider a float fishing trip during the warmer months of the year in West Virginia, there are some obvious choices which usually jump to the front of the line. You can’t go wrong with a trip down the New or Greenbrier River or in the eastern panhandle on the South Branch of the Potomac or Shenandoah River. However, some southern West Virginia anglers may be pleasantly surprised at what’s happening on their local waters.
“We want to let everyone know the fishing is good in the Tug River,” said Pete Runyon, an angling enthusiasts from Pike County, Kentucky.
Runyon is a bit of a Tug Fork activist. He successfully lobbied the Kentucky DNR and the West Virginia DNR to enter into a reciprocating agreement in which both state’s fishing license are recognized for the waterway. Buoyed by his success his next goal is to create improved access to the waterway.
“I have high hopes for the Tug River,” Runyon tells MetroNews. “Before it’s over I will get some help with stocking the Tug Fork with game fish. My goal is to get Kentucky and West Virginia to have a plan to work together. My county, Pike County, is in the planning stages of building six river access ramps for canoeing and kayaking.”
Ahead of those plans, Mother Nature is apparently helping spur the effort along. Grass roots efforts to improve water quality are starting to pay off with larger catches of fish and anglers are starting to notice.
Jeff Hansbarger is the West Virginia DNR district fisheries biologist for the region and acknowledges the Tug Fork hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, but it is something they would like to explore in the years ahead.
“It’s a place kind of out of the way and a lot of people don’t know about it,” said Hansbarger. “It really hasn’t had any habitat work done on it. There’s maybe room for some of that, we’ll have to see, but there’s definitely room for improvements with access and things like that. From anglers reports it sounds like it’s a great place to try right now.”
Historically the river has struggled with water quality. A lack of quality sewage treatment coupled with problems associated with accidents in the coal industry have set the river back time and time again. However, both of those problems are starting to turn around. The coal industry has seen drastic reduction in mining activity in the region. The chances for massive slurry spills or other problems has decreased significantly and there have been some efforts to reduce raw sewage into the water.
“Over time, people have been persuaded and through their own means they’ve put in septic tanks. Also the county and state have come in an improved sewage removal,” said Hansbarger. “That’s translated to better water quality for fish and that makes for better fisheries. It’s something you don’t see overnight, but it can happen over time.”
Hansbarger noted the grass roots effort done by the Coal River Group on the Coal River watershed along with efforts to improve the water quality on the Guyandotte River. All three waterways are scenic and with with the right attention to water quality, habitat improvement, and increased access have shown great promise to become fishing destinations for anglers.