Some controversy is brewing in West Virginia over Trout Unlimited’s recent directive. You can read it here and it basically instructs members not to participate in stocking hatchery-raised trout in streams that are inhabited by native brook trout or fed by other streams containing brook trout. This is causing a stir in the Mountaineer State. Local TU leaders as well as the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources are not keen on being told how to manage their fisheries and are feeling little urge to comply.
“Regardless of what National TU does, we’ll continue managing our fisheries in the way we think benefits our anglers the most,” said Mike Shingleton, leader of the DNR’s Trout Program. “They aren’t going to tell us how to run our trout program.”
My own opinion — that of an outsider with a soft spot for conservation of brook trout — is in agreement in principle with TU’s directive. However, I am not familiar with the specifics of trout stocking programs in West Virginia, the overall health of brook trout populations in the state, the history of fisheries management there, and I’m not a biologist, environmental policy person or a freaking politician. This may in fact be a blunder by TU and the concerns it addresses may or may not merit this policy. The article linked above brings up a lot of good points and certainly brings to light the perspective of the folks in the state.
I have written about my own views regarding stocking trout downstream of brook trout populations in Virginia, specifically in Shenandoah National Park and specifically about the obligation to kill any brown trout caught there. The science behind these practices shows that brook trout populations are definitely affected (even more details found at TU’s conservation success index site).
I know people want to take fish home, and stocked trout are a great resource for those folks. Likewise, there are trout streams containing brook trout that will not support them further downstream, year-round, etc. and most of us certainly enjoy going after browns and rainbows in the winter while the brookies spawn. If the details of TU’s edict are overly broad it may be overkill. Like I said I don’t know all the details but striking the right balance to accomodate all the interests involved is getting messy and I fear this kind of conflict is going to become more common around the country.