By Sydney Mucha, Communications Intern

West Virginia is known as the mountain state or the coal state to most people, but to me it is home. I was born and raised in a state filled with natural beauty that seemed to stretch as far as the eye could see and where trout streams ran on for miles. And, while this is not actually true, it did feel like it when my father and I would make a day trip up to the mountains for fishing. We would wake up before the sun rose and head down the road only to stop for breakfast at a little mom-and-pop diner before making our way out to the stream. We would often go just outside of Elkins and into parts of the Monongahela National Forest where Dad taught me the difference between brook, brown and rainbow trout as well as an assortment of other environmental things. These informal teachings stayed with me and continue to fuel my passion for the environment. And, I am not alone in this.

Trout Unlimited and American Forests partnered this spring to help restore a riparian area along the headwaters of the Greenbrier River in the Monongahela National Forest. This habitat is suffering from thermal loading from lack of vegetation and increased sedimentation and only supports a few minnow fish species. Yet, after proper reforestation, trees will shade the river and will decrease the water temperatures, which will help bring more aquatic life back into the area. Trout thrive in cooler waters, so it is expected that they will return to the area and the populations downstream will also improve.

The planting is composed of 3,011 red spruce and other large, native trees that will easily be able to shade the stream in a few years. And, all of the work has been done by hearty volunteers willing to brave the cold. But, there are also many members from Trout Unlimited and fishermen from the whole state who have been eager to help increase these native trout populations. The people of West Virginia are truly invested in the nature of the state and will continue well into the future.

So, can you pass for a native by finding the difference between the three species of trout pictured below? Brook trout are more aggressive and have light worm-like markings on their backs as well as a milky white anal fin. Brown trout are brown (hence the name!) with large spots, and they usually are much bigger since they have a longer life span. Rainbow trout have small spots on their backs and have a reddish stripe running the length of their body, which makes them the easiest to identify. Look at the pictures below to see if you can now spot the difference!

Rainbow trout
Rainbow trout, photo by Seattle.roamer via Flickr
Brown trout
Brown trout, photo by Michael Meiters via Flickr
Brook Trout
Brook Trout, photo by Penn State

To learn more about this project, visit its Global ReLeaf page.