SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources hopes to protect a long line of native brook trout streams in West Virginia’s high country with newly proposed regulations. The agency proposed to the Natural Resources Commission in February a plan to make 130 linear miles of stream and tributaries catch and release areas.
“We’ve recommended four different streams for catch and release,” said Acting Assistant Chief for Fisheries Jim Hedrick. “It’s not only to preserve that wild fish population, but those are areas where the DNR has already either made an attempt to improve water quality with limestone fines or with physical habitat improvement.”
The waters proposed for the designation are:
–Middle Fork of Williams River and tributaries in Webster and Pocahontas Counties
–Tea Creek upstream of the Tea Creek Campground and its tributaries in Pocahontas County,
–Red Creek upstream of the County Route 45 Bridge and its tributaries in Tucker County
–Otter Creek and tributaries in Randolph and Tucker Counties.
“Each one of these includes not only the main stem of the stream, but also the tributaries,” explained Hedrick. “A lot of them also have populations in the tributaries as well, so we’re really protecting the whole watershed in this case.”
It’s a stark contrast to the way the state has always handled native brook trout streams. During past decades, the agency was reluctant to ever reveal or publicize the location of any native brook trout waters for fear their numbers were fragile and needed to be protected. However, years of work to enhance and restore those streams along with a greater sense of conservation by sportsmen has changed the attitude toward those locations. Now, rather than hiding them, the state appears much more willing to promote them if they are on public property.
“These are areas where we can showcase them,” Hedrick explained. “A lot of them are on private land and we don’t want to showcase those and create conflicts with the landowner, but showcasing and establishing catch and release where we can showcase the population is critical.”
It was one of two changes involving trout put forward to the commission at their quarterly meeting in South Charleston. The second proposal called for the establishment of a fly-fishing only catch and release regulation for Edwards Run. The area is a 1.25 mile segment upstream of Edwards Run Pond on the Edwards Run Wildlife Management Area in Hampshire County near Capon Bridge.
“This is a high quality trout stream, but brook trout were actually extirpated from that stream in the 1960’s,” Hedrick explained. “We’ve gone through special efforts to restore the stream and actually now have reproducing populations there.”
The DNR found brook trout from another nearby stream and was able to restore the native population in Edwards Run. Stocking on Edwards Run is discontinued to provide space for the native fish, but the put and take stocking will continue on the pond. It would also be the nearest fly-fishing designated stream to the population centers around Martinsburg.
The proposals will need the approval of the Natural Resources Commission and will include input from sportsmen at the upcoming sectional meetings.