Trout Unlimited, the nationwide conservation organization whose stated goal is to “restore, enhance and protect” trout and salmon fisheries, has declared war on brown trout in one of West Virginia’s finest streams.
Members of the Virginia Council of TU (and at least some West Virginia Council members) plan to hold a brown-trout rodeo June 3-5 on Laurel Fork of the North Fork of the South Branch in Pendleton County. They’re calling the event the “BroundUp,” because the goal is to catch and kill as many brown trout as legally possible.
Some background: Laurel Fork heads up in Virginia and flows through West Virginia for a couple of miles before it dumps into the North Fork. It contains both brook and brown trout, some of them sizable. Up until 2006, the West Virginia DNR supplemented the native brookies in the stream’s lower reaches with stockings of fingerling brown trout. Now all the browns there are wild.
The browns’ presence apparently bothered some influential members of the Virginia Council, who organized the BroundUp to rid the stream of a perceived nuisance.
Further background: Brown trout are native to Europe, not to the United States. They are considered an exotic species. According to the Virginia TU Facebook page advertising the BroundUp, browns are “invasive.”
Says who? I haven’t seen a declaration by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to that effect. The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources doesn’t consider browns invasive, either. Many West Virginia streams that harbor wild, reproducing trout populations are brown-trout streams because browns can tolerate warmer waters and more pollution than brookies can.
Still, from June 3 through June 5, a group of fishermen will converge on Laurel Fork and do their darnedest to catch their limits of brown trout — and to kill every last one they catch. I suppose they think they’re “enhancing” Laurel Fork by removing the browns, and thus are helping TU to meet one of its objectives. But what does this say about their stated goal to “protect wild trout,” let alone their informal credo, “Limit your kill, don’t kill your limit?”
Whatever ideas these guys are sellin’, I ain’t buyin’.
In my opinion, this is the modern-day equivalent of frontier vigilantes getting up a posse to weed out an element they — and possibly they alone — consider undesirable.
Vigilante trout fishing. What a concept.
Doubly troubling is that TU’s national staff appears to be backing the event. The news release on the Facebook page listed TU’s Eastern Conservation Assistant as a source for directions and for information.
Full disclosure: Before I became a full-time outdoors writer in the mid 1980s, I was a Trout Unlimited officer at both the chapter and council levels. I backpacked literally hundreds of brown-trout fingerlings into streams throughout southern, central and east-central West Virginia. Back then we were interested in creating fisheries. Maybe the people behind the BroundUp are, too. They just have a funny way of showing it.