WV Wildlife: Little Coal River Float Trip

WVDNR fisheries biologist, Jeff Hansbarger, has seen an increase in fish populations and size since habitat structure improvements were put into place. (WCHS/WVAH)

The Coal River and it's tributaries have drastically improved over the years.

What used to be a waterway that had sediment issues and not much variation--now has new life thanks to the hard work done by contractors, the WV Conservation Agency, the DEP and the West Virginia DNR.

One of the better spots now is along the Little Coal River, which straddles the Boone and Lincoln County line south of Charleston down Corridor G. That section of the watershed, along with many others now, is a good place to float and catch fish at the same time!

Jeff Hansbarger, a fisheries biologist with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, says the work put in here should help pay off.

"There's been some disturbances and since then, there's been some habitat work to try to bring back the river and restore to what it used to be--try to create better in-stream habitat for the fish", said Hansbarger.

In a rugged state like West Virginia, our streams are especially prone to runoff and sedimentation. Something like building a new road, or mining coal for example, can push a lot of fine material into our streams. Most of our native fish species need variation in the stream bottom, and the recent work done here has been aimed to enhance that. Otherwise, with sediment adding up--a negative ripple effect can occur.

"These habitat structures work to try to move that sediment down the river, creating complexity and depth. That sediment can fill in the spaces between rocks, which bugs like to occupy--which fish like to feed on, so it can get to where you have less aquatic organisms", said Hansbarger.

Since the work has been done, Hansbarger says he's already seeing some positive changes for a nice variety of fish that call the Coal River watershed home.

"I've been amazed at some of the reports that I get in the Coal River from anglers. We have not stocked walleye in the Coal, but they've found their way in here--we have incredible reports of those. We have really nice muskie reports, small-mouth reports; I registered a citation from the Coal River a couple weeks ago, it was 20 inches--a small-mouth".

Even if you don't want to cast a line, this river is a good place for a relaxing float.

"It's just become a good place to recreate again. It's got a lot of access. A lot of good places to get in and make float trips--either short or long--and it's close to a lot of people, so it's very advantageous because of that", said Hansbarger.

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