Brook trout are the only native trout species to WV, and they are simply stunning. However, their numbers are diminished, and action to change this must be taken.

Along with many anglers, we love watching a brookie slam a dry fly and run the other direction, only to find itself in our net mere seconds later. Looking down, it becomes clear that the beauty of its colors are second to none. Looking around you realize that the beauty of where they hide is unforgettable. This beauty is among the many aspects of how we fell in love with catching these fish. To us, the most rewarding thing is watching the native fish swim back into his slew to thrive another day.

Sadly, with unchangeable and unending human encroachment, native brook trout numbers have dwindled in West Virginia. Brook trout are among the most fragile of trout species, certainly more so than the “invasive” rainbow and brook trout. Their lack of ability to out-compete these other species makes catch and release fishing vital to their survival. Many of West Virginia’s trout streams are filled with rainbow and brown trout; this is not necessarily a bad thing, as we love to catch these fish as well. However, the presence of these other fish undoubtedly adds extra pressure. With this, further steps do need to be taken to ensure the survival of brook trout into our future.

As outdoorsmen, we should be filled with joy to see steps toward this goal coming to fruition. It is possible that four strictly catch and release sections will be added to streams that still hold native brook trout: Otter Creek, the Middle Fork of the Williams River, Red Creek, and Tea Creek. This is certainly a leap in the right direction, but needs to be further expanded to other streams to promote long-term stability of populations. Another incredible option that has been brought to our state is stocking natives. Yes, “stocking” natives may sound like a contradiction at first, but its true. DNR biologists have removed eggs from a few wild, native brookies in order to hatch them and stock them in other places. This technique ensures that stocked natives are genetically similar to the wild trout, instead of more watered-down genetics of hatchery brook trout. Hopefully, this program will also be expanded into other parts of the state so long as it proves successful.

If we aim to keep catching natives, we should support and encourage advancements such as these. We must do our part to maintain the integrity of our trout streams. This involves all the cliches: don’t litter, leave no trace, be conscious your environmental impact, keep the fish in the water as much as possible, and practice catch and release for these incredible fish.

What Our Faith Demands

The idea of a person of faith having an environmental role dates back to the very first man who walked on the then sinless world. Genesis 1 tells us that Adam was created to fill the Earth, subdue it, and he was given dominion over the all creatures. The perfect world no longer existed after Adam sinned. Despite this, God used the blood and flesh of his creation to cover their sin in a foreshadowing event to Jesus who was to come. The original responsibility to take care of the Earth held after sin was introduced, but became much more difficult as part of Adam’s punishment included Earth resisting his work.

Adam clearly obeyed his calling with some faithfulness, as the human population on Earth has been greatly expanded from two people and one place. The result of this is clear, as it allows us to enjoy the beauty of West Virginia and the natives that live here. However, it does contribute to the “unchangeable and unending human encroachment” that I mentioned before. Clearly, God would not design a way of life that calls us to fill the Earth, subdue it, and also destroy it. This indicates that something we are doing as a result of filling the Earth is incorrect, and some of those things can be obviously seen in pollution among other things. As distant descendants of Adam, we should rejoice to know that our calling also includes taking care of the Earth. This is the precise reason as to why we should step in and care for populations of creatures, such as brook trout.

Thankfully, our ancestor’s sin did not result in absolute destruction of God’s beautiful creation, which we are still allowed to enjoy. In order to maintain this beauty, we must be called to conservation and preservation in many cases, as is the case of the brook trout. Like all of creation, the beauty of the brook trout is designed to point to Jesus, through which every thing is created and every good thing comes. If something accomplishes the task of revealing Jesus, which we often struggle to do ourselves, it is clear that it is not something that should be extinguished. So the next time you look down into your net and see a native, be thankful and know that its beauty and the excitement that comes with that is but a sliver that hints to the incredibly beautiful love of our Savior.