I have been a member, leader and supporter of Trout Unlimited for 30+ years, not as long as Joe has but still for a long time. I started as a member and director of the Cumberland Chapter in Nashville. After moving to Townsend over 20 years ago I transferred my membership to the Great Smoky Mountains Chapter and attended meetings in Knoxville. Then with the encouragement of the Tennessee Council and the Great Smoky Mountains Chapter I started working on a new Chapter in 1992 to assist Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We chartered in 1993, I served as the first President and we called ourselves the Little River Chapter. Soon after, the Clinch River Chapter was formed.
Anyone in the fisheries department at Great Smoky Mountains will tell you, the relationship that began 20 years ago has benefited the Park by $2.5 million. That includes volunteer labor from several TU Chapters, FFF, the Tennessee Council of TU, grants and donated cash. Before 1992, the Park Fisheries Department did not work with outside organizations. The Little River Chapter and Great Smoky Mountains Chapter changed that.
Due to the efforts and partnership with Trout Unlimited and the Park, most of the closed brook trout streams are now open to fishing. Most streams above natural barriers have been restored to pure strains of Southern Appalachian Brook Trout.
A few years ago I attended a Tennessee Wildlife Commission Meeting in Gatlinburg. An important issue to me was a slot limit on the Clinch River. I knew that idea had the overwhelming support of Trout Unlimited. I also knew TWRA supported this management practice. I sat next to Frank Fiss, who is the Assistant Chief of Fisheries at TWRA. I knew Frank wanted the slot limit. There were several TU members present to support the slot limit. When it came time for the public to speak, I spoke out in favor of the slot limit. Joe Congleton and George Lane spoke in favor of the slot. There were two people there who were opposed and they said they represented a landowner group on the Clinch. The Commission voted in favor of the slot limit which remains in place today.
What I am getting to is this, get involved with Trout Unlimited, either the Clinch River Chapter or the Great Smoky Mountains Chapter. Work with the agencies, TVA and TWRA. Support them. Tell them about the river cleanups the Clinch River Chapter does every year. Tell them about the bank stabilization efforts. Talk about the work John Thurman has done. Talk about getting young people involved to become our future stewards. Discuss water flow. Look at dissolved oxygen problems, water temperature, didymo, lack of food, abundance of predators, pollution and enforcement. Learn how to work with them, not against them. Make collective decisions on what can be done to improve the fishery. Raise money to help them do their job better.
My experience is, that is the only way you can improve fishing in the Clinch River. Maybe the fishing is fine. Maybe there isnít a problem. I donít know. I suspect all of the issues Shawn listed in this poll are important. Donít dwell on the past. Look to the future. Sacrifice your time and money to be a better steward and make a difference. Start by getting involved with Trout Unlimited.
Just my 2 cents and ho.