Youth Conservation Headwaters Travel

Catching native trout in Yellowstone leads to thoughts on conservation

Trout Unlimited’s teen essay contest honorable mention

Editor’s Note: Trout Unlimited’s annual Teen Essay Contest, like many things impacted by Covid, took on a different look in 2020. Our youth camps across the country were cancelled so we opened up the youth contest to all comers. Riley Nebolsine’s entry was picked as an honorable mention by the judges.

By Riley Nebolsine

There is a reason why the freshwater trout is without a doubt, the number one sought after fish on a fly rod. The stripes and spots all the way from the caudal fin to the gill plate are like a beautiful autumn morning, and at some point, everyone realizes why they must be protected.

Catching my first trout in Yellowstone National Park is the reason I feel a responsibility to become involved in conservation. That experience showed me how delicate species, such as trout, need conservation, how beautiful areas such as the allure of the Yellowstone landscape need protection, and it helped me realize the consequences we will face if we do not start to conserve trout. 

The Grand Tetons and Snake River. Riley Nebolsine photo

According to experts from Trout Unlimited in the State of the Trout report, native trout populations are at risk across our country.

“Of 28 native trout species and subspecies, three are extinct and six are listed as threatened or endangered. Excluding the extinct trout, 52 percent (13 of 25) occupy less than 25 percent of their historical habitat and are at high risk from at least one major threat. Nearly all native trout — 92 percent — face some level of risk.”

What this piece of evidence shows us is that while only six native trout species are endangered or threatened, almost all native trout are at some level of risk. The significance of this is that it shows us that we must be taking action to help conserve and protect native trout species.

Another reason why catching my first trout was so important was that the allure of the Yellowstone landscape which helped me realize that it must be protected. Yellowstone is often regarded as, if not the most, one of the most pulchritudinous locations in the world but it, along with several other national parks, needs protection.

As seen in an article from the National Park Service on climate change in Yellowstone: “Some effects are already measurable. Warmer temperatures are accelerating the melting of mountain glaciers, reducing snowpack… These extreme climate events may cause widespread and fundamental shifts in conditions of park resources”.

What this tells us is that Yellowstone is being heavily affected by climate change which should signal to us that we must take action to conserve it. A reason why catching my first trout is the moment when I felt a responsibility to get involved in conservation is because of the allure of the Yellowstone landscape. 

My final reason why catching my first trout in Yellowstone was the moment when I felt a responsibility to get involved with conservation is because it showed me the consequences we will see if we don’t start to conserve trout. In just Yellowstone alone, recreational fly fishing is a massive portion of the area’s economy.

According to the National Park Service: “Yellowstone cutthroat trout support a $36 million annual sport fishery to the local economy.”(NPS editors, 1).

What this shows is the sheer amount trout give to just Yellowstone. Now imagine if that was gone. There would be an immense economic impact, disrupt local food chains and be harmful to the environment, and be harmful socially due to people no longer being able to catch trout.  

We can see that as time goes on, the world needs more and more help from the destruction we have done to it. We all need to take start taking a part in conservation, the world needs it. 

 Riley Nebolsine is 16 and lives in Alexandria, Virginia.

By Trout Unlimited Staff.