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West Virginia: New Approach to Restoring Brook Trout

leah kirk

New Approach to Restoring Brook Trout.jpg

ROMNEY, W.Va.  — West Virginia Division of Natural Resources biologists recently released fingerling native brook trout into a tributary of the Cacapon River in Hampshire County with the help of students from Slanesville Elementary School.

The eggs and milt were taken from native brook trout in a nearby stream, after which the adults were quickly returned to the water. Biologists took the fertilized eggs to Reymann Farms, a facility near Wardensville affiliated with West Virginia University. Staff at the facility raised the young trout to fingerling size over several months.

The decision to stock fingerlings has been a well-thought out process and part of an effort to restore native brook trout to the Eastern Panhandle. DNR initially stocked hatchery-raised trout, but they didn’t reproduce well, said Brandon Keplinger, DNR district fisheries biologist. DNR also tried taking adult native brook trout from one stream and putting them in another, but this depleted the trout population of the donor stream and increased the chance of transferring harmful bacteria to the new stream. Stocking fingerling trout appears to have been successful.

“To get to this size, they’ve proven themselves to be pretty hardy, and they are more likely to survive high water flows,” Keplinger said.

“One of the keys to this method’s success is that these trout come from parents genetically adapted to the local stream conditions,” Keplinger said. “The hardest part of the process is finding females and males right when they are ready to spawn.”   

Keplinger said what DNR has learned from this year’s process will be used next year so more native brook trout can be raised for release in nearby streams with similar elevation, water temperature and water quality.