Trout fishing action in the Banner readership zone is now nothing short of sizzling hot at the frying pan level. This is a far cry from just one Abe Lincoln-like score of 20 years ago. That’s when folks were letting off steam at local public meetings for having to drive so far for a taste of upstate trout angling. We’ve come a long way baby and here’s the skinny and it’s no fish story.
Remember back when the local trout fishing was confined to the little old duck pond at Chief Logan State Park, Laurel Lake in Mingo County and Spruce Laurel Fork? The latter was having issues with iron pollution with its days on the trout list numbered. Buffalo Creek and Huff Creek were long gone from trout per the disaster of 1972 and other factors. Is anyone hankering for a return to these good old days?
Changing attitudes toward water quality, the Clean Water Act of the same year of the Buffalo Creek flood and the will of the people contributed immensely. The coal industry was oft the culprit of a bygone era. Ironically, King Coal became the main source of restoration funding through per ton cleanup taxes and “mitigation” requirements to offset the impacts of their modern era operations.
Rockhouse Lake and the “mother goose” sized new Chief Logan Lake were born out of the coal mitigation program fostered first by WVDEP and DNR and then the EPA and the Corps of Engineers. The Corps flood control projects at R.D. Bailey and East Lynn Lakes made for some new “tailwater” fisheries for trout adding to the new mitigation lakes.
Smaller coal-based mitigation lakes chimed in nicely to include the Lick Creek Pond and Wayne Dam in that county. The Logan County Airport folks and Shriners added their touch to the existing coal reclaim lake there for a new Children’s and Handicapped trout pond. The coal connection to trout was just beginning however.
Cool gravity waters flowing spring-like from the many underground mines were showing a lot of potential here and after all, that’s just what trout like. Some anglers in Boone County convinced DNR to plant fingerling brown trout in Hopkins Fork per all of its mine water. Low and behold, the baby brown trout grew into king size adults. Hopkins and nearby Pond Fork for its similar mine water input were both added to the trout stock list. Much later on, Buffalo Creek in Logan County made its historic return to the prestigious trout list.
Instream mitigation projects took over from the lake building era as the stream for stream concept became preferred. Projects at Pigeon Creek at Delbarton and West Fork of Pond Fork at Twilight were quite impressive additions. The Mingo and Boone County Commissions decided to stock them on a private basis over and above DNR’s allotments elsewhere. The Logan County Commission and Logan Area Turkey Federation, local energy companies and businesses have been supportive throughout and did likewise.
Watershed Associations at Buffalo Creek and Huff Creek blossomed and added again to the private stockings, cleanup activities and popular youth trout fishing days to boot. State DEP and DNR folks kept up with the brown trout fingerlings at West Fork, Pond Fork, Spruce Fork, Spruce Laurel Fork, Elk Creek, Buffalo Creek, Huff Creek, Dingess Run and Rum Creek per their mine water potential. Trout Unlimited and the folks just to the east in Wyoming County are having tremendous success at Clear Fork and the Upper Guyandotte River just to name a couple.
A major instream mitigation project is ongoing at Buffalo Creek in Logan County. Mitigation entities are showing major interest in restoring Huff Creek just to the south of Buffalo Creek. Spruce Fork along the Boone and Logan County line will be partially restored if the litigators that have been at it since 1998 can ever come to terms over the mine of the same name. To drive that point home, just look at what has been accomplished while all that bickering has transpired.
As I write this, I note that the Logan County Commission and the local mayors are sponsoring a private trout stocking with a fish fry for May 18 at Chief Logan Lake and that a 21-inch brown trout from Pond Fork has just been entered as a trophy citation! The trout excitement continues unabated. With gas now out four dollars a gallon, it’s a good thing those folks way back when fought for more trout right here in the backyard community.
For the many of them that are no longer with us and in particular Corky Clay from the community of Man, this one’s for them!
P.S. Bob Fala’s book Ramblin’ Outdoors is available at the Banner Office at a discounted price.