As specimens grew into line-busting behemoths, they even began reproducing on their own, less the help of DNR’s stock truck fleet. The rest as they say is history?
The mistake stocking story is now all but legendary.
A trout truck broke down on a hot day and it was, let the fish die or put them in the nearest stream.
It was the latter option of course that got this fish to swim.
Some intentional stockings later and now both brown and rainbow trout are well established in the McDowell County waterway.
The smallish coalfields stream is by no means pristine.
Heavily impacted by a dense human population and more than a century of coal mining, its waters to this day run with a blackish tint.
So just how does the Mountain State’s southern version trout fishery survive?
Spring like waters flowing from the many underground coalmine workings provide just the right cooling ingredient the trout need most.
The minerals in the water in turn are conducive to spawning of both the brown and rainbow varieties, which can be a ticklish matter in many a lesser troubled waters.
The fish there feature a unique, signature coloration, particularly beautiful as wild trout are in contrast to their hatchery brethren.
One angler, Roger Wolfe, has a wall full of mounted Elkhorn Creek beauties if you had any doubts.
Having grown up fairly close to the stream, he frequently fished it during its 1990s heydays.
Roger and a close knit group of family and friends became regulars on the Elkhorn .
Just like TV’s Larry Dahlberg, the group began a quest in search of big fish.
While angling the lower reaches near the city of Welch, they oft utilized two-vehicles dropping off one, then wade-fishing down or up to the other as the case may be learning the big holes and finding their quarry via hook-bending, line-breaking encounters.
They quickly adapted to stronger lines with bigger hooks and baits.
In other words, they went loaded for bear.
Their citation wall-mounts or shall we say wall-of-mounts and three ring binder full of DNR trophy trout certificates are eye-catching proof!
Roger likes to fish the deep, swift dark waters, using enough lead to get the bait down near the bottom.
For the rainbows, his favorite bait is a hook covering wad of Velveeta cheese. The brown trout at times preferred meatier fare like crawlers.
Their group oft took folks fishing with trophies in mind having the catch weighed in at nearby certified scales to be quickly released for another day and angler to be thrilled.
Since the New Millennium, the Elkhorn’s star has fallen off a bit.
Two major scouring floods have taken out a lot of structure earlier this decade. To top that, a truck accident of another sort (diesel fuel spill) caused a major fish kill just last year.
The stream is still kicking however.
The Elkhorn’s rough and tumbled history and water quality issues with trash and sanitary sewer has made for almost universal catch and release.
For those reasons, other anglers eschew it altogether.
These facts have no doubt helped the fishery.
The smallish stream even boasted the state record rainbow trout for a time.
The Elkhorn should now be on a bit of rebound from those floods and the stated fuel spill.
A “second wind” generation of big trout is no doubt fattening up for battle.