Trout Unlimited is a national conservation organization with more than 150,000 members organized into about 400 chapters around the country. The primary mission of Trout Unlimited (TU) is “To conserve, protect and restore North America’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds.”
TU has a local chapter here in Morgantown named after a 19th century explorer, P. Pendleton Kennedy, who joined an 1851 expedition into the Blackwater River area of Tucker County and subsequently reported the events of the trip in his book The Blackwater Chronicle.
April is a busy month for the P. Pendleton Kennedy Chapter of Trout Unlimited (PPKTU). Beginning with the annual fundraising banquet in Morgantown on March 30, 2018, at which the chapter raised approximately $4,000 in funds to be used in its various efforts throughout the year, chapter members rallied at Seneca Rocks on April 14 for the annual trash cleanup event on the North Fork of the South Branch Potomac River Catch and Release area. Then from April 19-21, chapter members will stock trout fingerling in local streams in Monongalia and Preston counties. The chapter owns a stocking tank and equipment which is transported by truck over these three days to Bowden Hatchery to pick up fish, which are transported to be stocked by teams of volunteers.
Next up on the agenda for PPKTU is a flurry of activity in a program called Trout in the Classroom (TIC). PPKTU operates three TIC units located in local middle schools in which students place trout eggs in specially-equipped aquarium tanks in the fall months of the school year. The students oversee the eggs hatching and then are responsible for feeding and growing the fish until the spring months of the school year. The culmination of the effort involves a field trip where the students remove the fish from the TIC units and release them into local streams. This will be the second year in which our local TIC operations have raised brook trout fry which will be stocked in Deckers Creek. Last year’s activity represented the first introduction of brook trout into a pollution-affected local stream that has been restored to trout habitat largely due to the efforts of Friends of Deckers Creek (FODC). We are excited to be able to continue the effort to restore a brook trout population to Deckers Creek, which is an outstanding natural resource just outside Morgantown.
In early June, our members will support the Bowden Kids Fishing Derby by attending and supervising the catch-and-release pond in an event where youngsters are allowed to bring their fishing gear into the Bowden trout hatchery and catch trout in specially stocked areas. PPKTU volunteers will be present with fly fishing tackle for youngsters to use. We enjoy putting fly rods into the hands of kids and showing them how to cast as well as seeing them experience the excitement of landing a fish with a fly rod and safely returning it to the water.
On the same Saturday the Bowden Kids Derby occurs, other volunteers will support the Middle Fork Williams River Bucket Brigade event. This event has been held for the last decade in Pocahontas County at a location on the Scenic Highway. The Middle Fork Williams River was identified a number of years ago as a marginal trout stream due to acid rain effects. A tributary of the Middle Fork Williams River rises only a few hundred yards from the highway. Due to National Forest Wilderness Area restrictions, use of machinery or other wheeled conveyances is prohibited. Limestone sand used to help neutralize the undesirable acidity is therefore carried manually in on a foot trail from the roadside to the tributary. On the first or second Saturday of June, dozens of volunteers get together and set up an old-fashioned firefighting bucket line and convey hundreds of buckets along the line to be dumped by hand at the end of the line on the bank of the tributary. Due to the efforts of hundreds of bucket brigade volunteers over the years, the Middle Fork Williams brook trout population has rebounded to a healthy level.
For questions about joining Trout Unlimited or the PPKTU activities, folks are encouraged to visit the Trout Unlimited Facebook page—just search Facebook for “P. Pendleton Kennedy Chapter Trout Unlimited.”
Bill Pennington is an area lawyer, local paddler, and board member for Friends of the Cheat.