Creek Friends Support Trout for Third Year

Morgantown Dominion Post
26 September

For the third year in a row, Friends of Deckers Creek (FODC) staff, volunteers and partners introduced or re-introduced trout (depending on which local fisherman you talk to) into Deckers Creek.

For years, FODC staff heard stories from long-time residents that Deckers Creek supported trout before mining began in the region and degraded water quality. Other locals say they can’t remember a time when Deckers Creek was ever clean enough to support trout.

Since 2011, members of Trout Unlimited, FODC, and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) have stocked about 3,000 brown trout fingerlings (about the size of a finger) throughout the Deckers Creek Gorge. Buckets of fingerlings were placed at several locations in the gorge along W.Va. 7, from Pioneer Rocks to Cascade Falls. If you’ve ever seen the gorge, you know that it looks like prime trout habitat. Swift moving, well oxygenated white water, and a full canopy of trees overhead are a few of the main selling points.

 If you examine the gorge further, you will find that water chemistry and creek insect communities have improved substantially during the years and are stable enough to support trout.

These improvements can be attributed to acid mine drainage remediation projects completed by FODC and its partners, such as the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, Natural Resources Conservation Service, local businesses and volunteers.

During the hot summer months, the temperature of Deckers Creek is questionable for trout survival. Studies show that brown trout require water temperatures near 75 degrees and can survive only a few days at temperatures above 75. FODC hopes that cold water “pockets” within the gorge provide trout the temperature refuge they need to survive the summer.

To determine if the trout fingerlings are surviving and growing, FODC and WVU volunteers, including Fisheries Professor and FODC board member George Merovich, sample fish communities in the gorge.

In the first year of stocking, 15 brown trout fingerlings were recovered from the Deckers Creek Gorge, weighed, measured and returned to the stream. While this number seems small, it demonstrates that the trout are surviving. Merovich also found that the trout fingerlings are growing. Apparently the water is cool enough for the trout to survive and have enough to eat and grow.

Beginning in 2002, FODC conducted annual fish surveys not only in the gorge but throughout the watershed as part of its Clean Creek Program (CCP), a project designed to provide a picture of the watershed’s overall health. Fish data collected through the CCP include species, size and weight, number of species and number of individuals within species.

Results show an increased number of fish species and increase in fish biomass (weight of all fish combined), indicating improvements in water quality. Data also reveal that stocked trout fingerlings are surviving and growing from year to year.

Tom Belden, MHS science teacher and adviser of the Fishing and Outdoor Club, recently fished Deckers Creek near Dellslow, “The fishing has definitely improved in the 10 years or so that I have been at it. I used to catch a higher percentage of creek chubs and very few game fish. This summer, I’ve caught some nice smallmouth bass, a couple of bluegill and green sunfish, a real nice walleye and only a few creek chubs.”

FRIENDS OF DECKERS CREEK is a nonprofit watershed group. Its column runs monthly. To contact the group, call 304-292-3970 or visit