CATCH-AND-RELEASE LIFTED ON ELK RIVER? - Elk Was Once State's Popular Fishing Destinations

The Elk River was once a favorite fishing destination in the region, replaced by the building of dams at Burnsville, Sutton and Summersville and DNR restrictions on the river itself.

Now, a group called Mountaineers Unlimited wants West Virginia's game and fish commissioners to change trout-fishing regulations on the Elk River to allow fishermen to keep some of what they catch.

The Elk, once one of the state's most popular fishing rivers, might then become more attractive.

Catch-and-release regulations "have curtailed use of the river by ordinary, everyday fishermen," according to Bill Belcher of Monterville.

"We want the daily creel limit on trout put back to six, and we want the restrictions removed on the type of fishing we can do," said Belcher, who spoke at Sunday's quarterly meeting of the state Natural Resources Commission.

Belcher said that 20 years ago, before DNR officials imposed the first special regulations on the Elk, "You used to find families all up and down the riverbanks."

"Catch-and-release changed all that," he said.

Belcher said Mountaineers Unlimited members have signatures from 5,000 people who want the catch-and-release regulations lifted.

Larry Harris, state representative for Trout Unlimited, said special regulations have helped the Elk become recognized as "one of the best trout streams in the East."

DNR Commissioner Kenny Wilson of Chapmanville said he's not inclined to change the July decision unless DNR trout biologists have a compelling reason.