Cold Water Conservationists

By Rich Redman

From Alaska to Vermont there is a dedicated group of piscatorial individuals that put trout and salmon first. This group of men and women anglers, cherish, the clean, cold, fish supporting waters of our Nations streams. They intend to keep them that way. Their passion for protecting, restoring, and preserving trout water is well known. Who are these folks you ask?

Trout Unlimited of course!

Trout Unlimited, or TU, was founded by on the banks of Au Sable River in Grayling, Michigan. It all started in July of 1959, when a group of concerned Michigan anglers banded together to ensure the health of trout, their habitat, and the sport of angling. The original 12 founding members of Trout Unlimited are: Lon B. Adams, Casey E. Westell Jr., Arthur C. Neumann, Victor C. Beresford, George A. Griffith, Cornelius M. Schrems, Kenneth M. Putnam, C. R. Evenson, Pierce Stocking, Harry S. Busbee, John N. Keen and D. Earl Kimble. Visionaries!

Just two years later, the fledgling conservation organization had won its first victory: Michigan had replaced its indiscriminate stocking of catchable-sized trout with stream improvement programs, fingerling plantings, and protective fishing regulations. Word of success in Michigan spread quickly and conservation minded anglers in other states, from Pennsylvania to California, joined together under the Trout Unlimited banner to effect similar change in their trout fisheries.

Almost six decades later, TU is over 150,000 members strong, with more than 400 chapters nationwide, including some local ones.

There are at least 7 chapters that cover the Adirondack region, the Tug Hill/Black River, Iroquois, Saint Lawrence Valley, tri-lakes, Lake Champlain, Adirondack, and the Mohawk Valley Chapter. All of these chapters work at both a political and field level for sound cold water conservation.


TU is the watch dog to make sure electrical power plants that use river water for power, follow the permit requirements the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission sets in the permit, such as maintaining the run of the river flows. Huge variations in river flows can scour out insects and fish eggs, while low flows can dry out reeds and effect insects, future fish and future aquatic life.

Removing old dams that restrict aquatic passage is another top priority for our members. Restoring and allowing Atlantic salmon and trout to migrate to historic spawning sites is one of many priorities. Fish passage projects, such as replacing culverts that restrict Brook trout and other fish to cold water refuge and spawning sites is also on our hit list of conservation goals.

We work with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation on stream regulations so there are fly fishing only sections, limits on the size and how many fish can be taken. The type of gear that can be used, such as the use of weights, and hook sizes, is also a component of our DEC discussions. We encourage native fish, and natural fish supporting streams, along with stream restoration and improvement work with government agencies. We are strong advocates of the catch and release philosophy. Like Lee Wulff stated, “A gamefish is too valuable to be caught only once”.

Field Work

We are not just activists in cold water fisheries, we are hands on guys and gals who like to get things done.

Teaching fly fishing, fly tying and casting is one way to perpetuate the passion and to educate the young about stream ecology, aquatic life and the science of fisheries management.

We work with local watershed groups to plant willows, dogwoods and trees along streambanks to reduce erosion, stabilize banks and shade trout waters while creating natural habitat. River restoration is also done working with local towns, and government agencies. “Restoring” the river back to fish supporting habitat, and improving the stream ecology is the goal.

“Reconnecting” streams to floodplains and wetlands is vital to the natural stream process. Nutrients from wetlands, tree leaves, and natural runoff of organic matter from woodlands supply the energy and food aquatic insects need to survive. If insects flourish, then fish can if the habitat is there.

Trout and salmon survived long before we came along. It was man’s intervention that built dams, cut off wetlands, built roads through floodplains, and installed culverts that restrict migration, plus chemicals and excess nutrients were dumped into the streams and rivers and eventually into our lakes.  The hand of man caused the problems and the hand of man can fix them. It’s our responsibility!

Progress is good for our Nation, but it must be done with a conservation ethic. We can have a sound energy program; we need to make sure we do no harm while we build. We must “Protect” our rivers. Conservation pays in the long run.

From the beginning, TU has built upon its reputation as an organization of conservation-minded anglers who rely upon sound scientific principles to promote quality trout and salmon fisheries. We welcome you to join and become a cold water conservationist!

If you wish to learn more, feel free to contact me at