Angler works to spread the word of trout conservation

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Typically when you talk about “wild trout” in West Virginia, the first thing that comes to mind is a high mountain stream in the most remote stretches of the Monongahela National Forest in Randolph, Pendleton, or Pocahontas Counties. But J.P. Hurn of St. Albans says fewer people realize the incredible wild trout which are being produced in the headwaters of the streams in Southern West Virginia.

Hurn is a conservation activities and a member of the Southern West Virginia Chapter of Trout Unlimited. The club does a lot of work on those southern streams in help protect the water quality and enhance the habitat.

“We have some of the best water on the east coast. It’s been said by many different fly anglers across the United States that east of the Mississippi, the Elkhorn or Guyandotte is some of the best fishing in the eastern United States. I know that’s up for debate, but when you look at some of the pictures of fish coming out of southern West Virginia they’re incredible, not only the quantity of fish, but the quality,” said Hurn in a recent episode of West Virginia Outdoors.

Hurn said those naturally reproducing brown and rainbow trout are why it was so crucial to get catch and release regulations established on the headwaters of those streams. The West Virginia Natural Resources Commission approved those rules last year.

Along with the efforts to do stream cleanups and fingerling stockings in many of those waters, there is an ongoing public education effort. Such an undertaking would have been frowned upon a generation ago. For decades, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources deliberately avoided publicizing the locations of wild trout populations in the state. It was hard to even secure confirmation naturally reproducing fish in the state even existed. The thinking for many years was offering a wider knowledge was a threat to put too much pressure on the fragile fisheries.

Hurn disagreed and he’s not alone.

“You can’t protect a stream and the fish in it if people don’t know it exists. There’s been this whole evolving mindset from years ago where you can’t talk about these fish or where they’re at. But if people don’t know where they are or how to fish for them, then how can they known how to protect them? The idea that anglers are an enemy to these streams is a bunch of hogwash,” he said.

That’s when the Southern West Virginia Chapter of T-U will use a sizeable grant from T.C. Energy to help spread the gospel of wild  trout. The group will erect kiosks, made by a class of carpentry students in Raleigh County to be placed on Elkhorn Creek and the Guyandotte in the months to come featuring the information on the streams and the fish in them.

According to Hurn, it’s an effort to let people know about a special and unique resource right in their backyard.

“We’re making sure that not only the fish are safe, but also the people living in these communities. The people who live in this community, rely on these streams for their wells and cisterns, they’re all interconnected,” said Hurn. “A lot of people don’t think about these fish. When you look at a 20 inch brown, it could have taken eight to 10 years to get to that size. It takes years and years to create fish of that size.”

Hurn believes education and knowledge help people buy-in to protecting the streams both from over harvest, and from pollution threats. He added they aren’t against industry in the region like coal and timber, but want to diligent in holding those industries accountable to follow the rules and also buy in to the stream protection.

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