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Historic Fishery of the Blackwater River

Zurbuch, Peter E.
Southeastern naturalist 2015 v.14 no.sp7 pp. 276-296
Salvelinus fontinalis, acid deposition, coal, drainage, fish, fisheries, global warming, land use, limestone, logging, mining, neutralization, rivers, streams, surveys, water pollution, water quality, watersheds, wilderness, West Virginia
This paper examines the changes in the Blackwater River's fishery from presettlement wilderness conditions to the present, and concludes with comments regarding the future of this resource. I estimate the extent of the native Salvelinus fontinalis (Brook Trout) fishery present prior to European settlement based on writings of the era and results of trout-stream restoration in West Virginia. I also describe the effects of logging, fire, and coal mining on the river's water quality and the subsequent demise of the Brook Trout fishery. I examine the partial recovery of the watershed and its fishery using records of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) and its predecessors that provided data regarding Blackwater River fish stockings, creel censuses, and fish surveys, and from conversations with local anglers. I also report on efforts to restore the lower Blackwater River in the mid-1990s when a limestone treatment facility was installed just upstream from Davis, WV to neutralize the acid-mine drainage entering the river. The effort improved water quality enough so that a fishery developed in the Blackwater Canyon. I describe the efficacy of an in-stream limestone-sand treatment to remediate the effects of acid deposition and facilitate recovery of the local native Brook Trout streams. Finally, I discuss the future of the Blackwater River and its fishery as related to climate warming, acid deposition, land development, water pollution, and water usage.