News Release

For Immediate Release
Bill Kittrell, Aquatic Resources Manager for Southwest Virginia, 276-783-4860

NOTE: This news release was distributed on 5/10/2012. The information below may no longer be the most up-to-date information available, or may pertain solely to events that occurred in the past. Please contact the person listed as the contact person for this release for the most current information.

Little Tumbling Creek - A Partnership Success Story

Virginia Sets Stage to Restore First Southern Appalachian Brook Trout Stream in the State

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) will be returning brook trout to a stream that has been devoid of fish for over 20 years. Thanks to a joint initiative by the VDGIF, the American Electric Power (AEP) Foundation, the Virginia Council of Trout Unlimited (VCTU) and James Madison University, Little Tumbling Creek at Clinch Mountain Wildlife Management Area in Smyth and Tazewell counties could well become the first restored Southern Appalachian brook trout stream in the state.

The upper four miles of Little Tumbling Creek lost its brook trout population due to naturally occurring and man-made acid depositions in the 1970s and 1980s. This past winter, when AEP subsidiary Appalachian Power built a new road to service its transmission lines that cross the wildlife management area, it carved a spur into the headwaters of the creek so limestone sand could be placed in the stream. Liming the stream is a proven strategy for recovering waters where acid rain has made habitat unsuitable for trout.

"What makes the liming of Little Tumbling very exciting," says Bill Kittrell, VDGIF Aquatic Resources Manager for southwest Virginia, "is the opportunity to restore the Southern Appalachian brook trout to its native habitat." Kittrell explains that two strains of brook trout are native to Virginia. "Generally speaking, southern strain brookies occur south of the New River, and northern strain brookies are found north of that river. "

Though VDGIF grows northern strain brook trout for stocking in the state, no major hatchery source of southern strain brookies currently exists in the state or the Southeast. A partnership among the United States Forest Service, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, and Trout Unlimited is pioneering the raising of Southern Appalachian Strain brook trout in a prototype hatchery at Tellico in Tennessee.

A team from VDGIF and VCTU visited the Tellico hatchery early this spring and felt that a similar facility may be a possibility in southwest Virginia. "We’ve just begun preliminary planning," Kittrell says. "It will probably be dependent on outside funding sources and would be years before VDGIF could grow southern strain brook trout for stocking streams in southwest Virginia." Until then northern strain brook trout, cultured so they cannot spawn, will be stocked in Little Tumbling Creek.

"With $20,000 from the AEP Foundation and assistance from James Madison University and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, we will monitor water chemistry, the growth of the brookies, and the development of aquatic insects that trout eat," Kittrell says. As soon as VDGIF can produce southern strain brook trout that retain their wild characteristics, the agency will begin placing them in Little Tumbling Creek. VDGIF believes the creek will serve as a model providing lessons that will lead to the restoration of other southern brook trout streams in the region.

Representatives from the partner agencies will release about 4,000 fingerling trout into the stream on May 15th at approximately 2:00pm. Media are welcome to attend the stocking event and should contact Bill Kittrell (276) 783-4860, for directions and details.