T-U Official Addresses Controversial Gathering


Sometimes an idea seems good on paper–but once it’s in process it loses considerable luster.  Such would be the thinking for members of the T-U National Council a week after a planned gathering on Laurel Fork of the North Branch of the Potomac.

The organization planned what it termed a "Bround-Up" on the stream.  Whether it was intended or not, word spread quickly this was an effort to remove and destroy as many brown trout as legally possible on this native brook trout stream.

"It was not intended to be a ‘killing of brown trout’ other than maybe some to bring back to eat," said Gary Berti with the National T-U organization speaking on West Virginia Outdoors.

However, as is often the case in our fast paced world of "new media" on-line coverage and internet message boards served to fan the flames of something which turned into a public relations nightmare for the organization.   Berti says the planned event was his idea and he takes responsibility for the bad publicity.  

"My bad," he said of the negative publicity.

However, Berti isn’t apologizing for his main reason for scheduling the event.  He believes there needs to be a dialogue about the impact of non-native species on native trout streams.

"Perhaps one of the issues on the table was, what kind of regulations we should have for catch-and-release of native trout, especially in high quality watersheds that are starting to diminish," said Berti.

Although the West Virginia DNR and Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries don’t classify it as such, Berti makes the case that brown trout, which are native to Europe, are an invasive species.

"There’s lots of sources of information regarding native brook trout and how they are being diminished," said Berti. "One of the threats to brook trout as evidenced by fisheries managers across the east are invasive species or hatchery species, which can supplant brook trout in watersheds."

Ironically, the brown trout present in Laurel Fork were put there two decades ago by Trout Unlimited chapters with the blessing of the West Virginia DNR.  T-U members volunteered their time and money to fund and backpack fingerling browns into many back country streams to jumpstart an active, breeding population.    However, times change and Berti says research advances.

"I think you have to be careful when you put non-native trout on top of native trout," he said. "Wherever you go there are concerns about that.  There are plenty of examples where brown trout and brook trout are coexisting, but there are plenty of examples where the brown trout will actually take over a watershed."

Berti says the intent of the "Bround Up" event, which incidentally was cancelled amid the firestorm of criticism, was to raise the awareness of the potential negatives of mingling the two species. 


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