Return to trout glory: Restoration can be the first step

Until the early 2000s, spring-fed Glade Creek in the Roanoke Valley of Western Virginia held some big wild browns, such as this one collected in a 2007 electroshock sampling effort. Development in the watershed likely contributed to the disappearance of the trout. An ongoing restoration program on Maryland's Little Tuscarora Creek on the outskirts of Frederick gives TU's Mark Taylor hope that, with the right restoration efforts, Glade Creek might once again hold wild trout.


By Mark Taylor


Not long after I moved to the mountains of western Virginia, I heard an intriguing rumor.

“There are some big wild browns in Glade Creek,” came the whispered hint.

With a name like Glade Creek, how can it not hold trout?

The thing was, this stream ran right through the heart of the Roanoke valley, alongside a busy highway and through bustling neighborhoods.

But it had browns, some pushing 20 inches.

It was spring-fed, and even in the summer months the water stayed cold enough to support those wild browns that lived there.

Lived. Not live.

Over the course of the three or four years I stealthily fished the creek I noticed that I was seeing fewer trout in the clear water. Until I wasn’t seeing any.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries came in with electroshocking gear and confirmed that the days of wild trout were gone. Although the crew shocked up a lone relic -- a beautiful 20-incher -- there were no young trout.

Who among us has not experienced something like this?

As we all know, and as was so clearly outlined in TU’s recently released State of the Trout report, native and wild trout now inhabit a fraction of their former range.

The culprits are many and varied.

The Roanoke Valley TU chapter placed temperature loggers in Glade Creek, and found that there were some spikes after summertime thunderstorms when rainwater heated on parking lots flowed into the creek.

There was also some development-related siltation that limits spawning habitat.

Yet despite these issues, the creek is not a lost cause. Those summertime thunderstorm thermal spikes weren’t terrible. And we know that spawning habitat can be recovered through restoration projects.

It’s not unreasonable to think that, with some effort, the creek could again support wild trout.

The local chapter has done some work on Glade Creek, and we are in the early stages of planning additional efforts.

An ambitious project underway on Maryland’s Little Tuscarora Creek is a perfect example of the steps that can be taken to restore imperiled, semi-urban waters that have trout potential.

An ambitious restoration project on Maryland's Little Tuscarora Creek will improve trout habitat on the spring-fed creek. 

Like Glade Creek, the Little Tusky runs through a region where development is expanding. But, like Glade Creek, the stream is spring-fed and can, under the right circumstances, remain cold enough to support trout year round.

As covered earlier this week in a great story by Baltimore Sun reporter Timothy Wheeler, this summer a crew completed a $200,000 restoration project along a section of the creek, and riparian plantings to improve the stream canopy are on the horizon.

Time after time we’ve found that when we take care of the habitat, the fish figure it out and return.

Is there a guarantee that native brook trout will again swim in the restored stretch of the Little Tuscarora? No.

But we have to believe. That’s why we do this.

And that’s why I remain hopeful that I will once again get to cast flies for big wild trout in Glade Creek.

Mark Taylor is the eastern communications director for Trout Unlimited, and the conservation chair for TU's Roanoke Valley chapter.



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