For brook trout in this area or Southeast corner of state, past history would include Shillalah Crk (Bell Co), Martins Fork Crk (Bell/Harlan Co), and Poor Fork (Letcher Co).
This summer/fall we are conducting some sampling for brook trout when we can fit it into schedule. During the 1980's brook trout were stocked in the head of Shillalah Creek and Martins Fork Creek in Cumberland Gap Natural Historic Park. Shillalah Creek (Bell Co) is actually in the Southeastern Fisheries District, John Williams. Martins Fork Creek starts in Bell Co. and then flows into Harlan County, which I work. Both streams require a lot of hiking to get into them. There is no road access. Sampling we have done so far in Martins Fork during 2008 has not found any brook trout. There are some severe pH declines at times with pH near 4.0 (during low rainfall). Presume the brook trout population be very low number or gone possibly in Martins Fork or Shillalah.
During 2008 we have sampled some brook trout in a tributary of Poor Fork (3.5 - 11.8 inch, 4 fish). This stream was Bad Branch of Poor Fork and was in State Nature Preserve property, which means no fishing (bummer). We have not finished sampling in Poor Fork, but have not seen any brook trout in other locations. I would believe that some would be in main stem of Poor Fork upstream of Bad Branch. This would be along RT932. I think in spring with increased water flow, the brook trout would spread out their territory some. If you thought you would want to try go to Whitesburg take RT119 over Pine Mtn and turn left onto RT932. Bad Branch Nature Preseverve is marked for reference. To get to the very start of Poor Fork follow RT 932 into Virginia and take Green Valley Drive to left. This road will cut you back into Kentucky and onto the upper part of Poor Fork. At this location the stream is not really brook trout habitat, but it is low gradient and does furnish some pools with good depth for survial of trout in dry times. Also, this area used to be farmed and has had beaver in it periodically (during 2000 we sampled one brook trout at 12.0 inches here at the upper end of a beaver pond while stream was very low flow). This area off Green Valley Road will be farm property. To get to the very start of Poor Fork in Jefferson National Forest you have to walk through private property from Green Valley Road. The section of stream in Jefferson National Forest is very small and often of insufficient size for brook trout and we have not sampled any there. Note, the best looking habitat is generally along RT 932 and is best bet for locating one. At present I would predict brook trout are in main stem of Poor Fork, but in very low number.
Good luck with your fishing.
Kevin Frey, Eastern Fisheries District Biologist
2744 Lake Road
Prestonsburg, KY 41653