Pennsylvania has a long and complicated history when it comes to trout. Before the days of big lumber in the late 1800s, native brook trout abound in most of the waters throughout the Commonwealth. In order to get their logs to market, loggers straightened and cleared stream banks, removed "debris" that would cause their logs to get hung up, and dammed creeks to flood logs downstream, scouring streambeds in the process. Then came the massive forest fires, runoff, and associated siltation. Then the mining, which left a legacy of metals contaminated water we are still dealing with. Lets also not forget the overfishing, sometimes via dynamite, which decimated what was left of our trout.
Since those days, trout have made a significant recovery due largely to efforts by State agencies, volunteer groups, and private citizens. However, we still have a long road ahead of us, and it seems new issues are constantly on the horizon (urban sprawl, global warming, energy development, invasive species, etc.).
Initially, stocking trout in our decimated water ways was one answer to restoring our trout populations. Those days are now behind us for the most part. I've always had a love/hate, or proportionally, a hate/love, relationship with stocked trout. They have a place in our water ways that are still marginal as trout water, they also provide an excellent resource for children to cut their teeth on as they learn fish. I think we can all agree though, that a self sustaining wild fishery is a far superior option to a "put and take" fishery. Troutbitten recently published a good article on why wild trout matter, and I encourage you to read it.
Recognizing the value of wild trout, PFBC (cosponsored by TCO Fly Shops and PATU) hosted a Wild Trout Summit today in State College. The turnout was impressive to say the least. Well over 200 people were in attendance from all walks of life, with a common interest/goal, to protect and promote wild trout in Pennsylvania. Some know that in my "other life" I am an environmental geologist for the State, I've also been active with TU for many years, and been traipsing the globe chasing wild trout for a lot longer. Throughout the years I've had the pleasure to meet some of best and brightest in each of these endeavors, and I am pleased to say, a large number of them were in the room today. The biologists, geologists, engineers, teachers, TU members/officers, writers, photographers, guides, and numerous other professions, all coming together, because in the end, we are all ultimately anglers trying to use our collective knowledge to solve the problems of wild trout restoration and management.
Numerous presentations were given regarding the research currently being conducted on wild trout, challenges ahead, regulatory protections, and possible solutions to current and potential future issues. Overall, I believe the Summit was a success. Based on what I saw today, I am optimistic for the future of wild trout in Pennsylvania. A LOT of work has and continues to be done, and a LOT more is needed. But it gives me hope for the future.
I encourage everyone to get involved, especially in regards to educate not only other anglers, but even non-anglers as to the importance of wild trout and their habitat. I also encourage everyone to take a kid or a friend fishing, camping, or hiking along some of our wonderful trout streams. After all, no one will care about a resource they don't know about or appreciate. In today's indoor/electronic society, it is more important than ever to reconnect with nature. When it comes to wild trout restoration, I think of a line from Henry Shoemaker's introduction to his work Eldorado Found (1916) says it best, "This is a pioneer work, incomplete in many ways", but I believe we are taking steps in the right direction.
PFBC posted the video of the entire event on their website here.