It’s almost a cliché now, that industrialization and development took its toll on the environment and the diversity of species that support it. Brook trout is one of these species, historically populating much of eastern North America’s lakes and rivers, and now extirpated from much of its natural range.
Now, biologists at the White Sulphur Spring National Fish Hatchery are working with the West Virginia Conservation Agency to restore brook trout populations to Kitchen Creek and its tributary Cove Branch.
Brook trout need cold, well-oxygenated water to thrive. Biologists believe this particular part of the watershed is perfect for brook trout, as Cove Branch begins in a cave where the water is a cool 54 degrees.
Brook trout also need clean water, which is why our West Virginia Field Office worked with the conservation agency to complete four fencing projects that create a buffer zone between pastures and the stream. The fencing is very flood tolerant, easy to maintain and repair, and is highly beneficial to fish and wildlife habitat, water quality and farm operation.
So, after the completion of those projects, our hatchery collaborated with the landowner, dairy farmer Steve Dransfield and partners to introduce 2,000 fry to Cove Branch this past fall.
(A fry is a juvenile fish. It is also something you do before eating fish. Just not brook trout, please.)
Last week, biologists went back to Cove Branch to survey the stream and were thrilled to find that many of the brook trout had survived that brutal, unending winter. Not only that, but the fish were growing exceptionally well.
This pioneering class of brook trout is the first of many, with a second class of fry being introduced to the stream this November. As part of a larger effort to improve water quality and agricultural practices in the area, this reintroduction of brook trout is one way the Service is restoring river habitat in West Virginia.