Angler Science

Angler Science: How our angler members contribute to the science behind TU conservation

Check out the following opportunities for anglers to contribute to the scientific understanding of trout and salmon conservation.


TroutBlitz is a project aimed at cataloging the rich diversity of North America’s native salmonids, including trout, steelhead, charr, whitefish, and salmon. Through photography and angling, TU members are building an easily accessible, geo-referenced photo library of native salmonids across their geographic range, as well as documenting the distribution of nonnatives. Check out TroutBlitz on iNaturalist

Staff contact: Matt Barney

Steelhead Angler Science

Perhaps no fish in the Pacific Northwest is more revered and sought after than the wild steelhead, and the angler science programs of TU are well positioned to harness the passion and sense of responsibility in steelhead anglers. While state agencies work hard to monitor trends in wild steelhead abundance and distribution, many data gaps remain. A well trained dedicated group of angler scientists could help fill some of these gaps, providing needed information useful to guide conservation actions and shape management strategies. Some work is underway, such as efforts to count steelhead redds on Oregon’s Salmonberry and Molalla Rivers. Various aspects of stream habitat, including stream channel complexity, riparian features, water temperature, and instream cover, are important to steelhead health. Information on habitat, particularly when coupled with redd count or snorkel survey data, can be used to help determine why steelhead use particular areas within a watershed and to predict how conservation actions in riparian areas and stream channels may affect steelhead abundance and distribution. Data from Steelhead redd counts can be used to determine the spatial and temporal distribution of breeding and population abundance, and there are numerous opportunities for redd counts to provide new information that would not otherwise be available without citizen scientists. Our goal is to train a league of anglers to collect and report important data on steelhead populations and their habitat in a systematic and repeatable fashion, according to strict scientific principles. For more information, check out our steelhead angler science brochure.

Staff contacts: John McMillan, Kyle Smith, Jack Williams

Stream Temperature Monitoring

Trout prefer cold water, often less than 65°F, and stream temperature has a strong influence on their well-being. TU restoration projects often target improving stream temperatures, and keeping a record of temperature variability and trends can be an important tool to help confirm the success of these efforts or identify where further work is needed. Waterproof data logging thermometers offer a simple, affordable means to fill this need. Check out our Stream Temperature Monitoring Handbook.

Staff contact: Kurt Fesenmyer

Didymo Sampling

Didymo is a small diatom that causes a big problem: large algae mats that smother stream substrates. TU is working with scientists at the University of Idaho to help collect water samples in order to better understand the distribution of this noxious algae.

Staff contact: Dave Kumlien

Eastern Shale Gas Monitoring

Development of shale gas threatens stream systems from Pennsylvania to West Virginia as fracking chemicals and other contaminants enter brook trout streams. Through Trout Unlimited's Pennsylvania Coldwater Conservation Corps, members there have been actively monitoring streams for signs of shale gas development, including changes in basic water quality parameters. Meanwhile, volunteers in West Virginia and Virginia are monitoring areas currently experiencing shale gas development, as well as collecting baseline data in areas which are likely to be developed in the future. Catch up on their activities on the WV-VA Shale Gas Monitoring Project page. 

Staff contact: Jake Lemon

Stream Water Quality

Trout Unlimited believes that angler-based, citizen science water quality monitoring efforts will play a large role in the preservation of coldwater fish species and their habitats as well as ensure years of recreational opportunities for future generations. To this end, TU has developed a Water Quality Manual to provide chapters, members, anglers, outdoor enthusiasts, and others interested in water quality with the information necessary to monitor their local streams. Unfortunately, many state agencies and environmental organizations simply do not have the resources to adequately monitor our nation’s bountiful flowing freshwater resources. Trout Unlimited chapters, members, and other volunteers can help fill information gaps by collecting water quality information and collaborating with state agencies, environmental organizations, and local universities to promote the health of rivers and freshwater ecosystems and ensure the enjoyment of these resources for generations to come. Learn more about monitoring water quality in your local area in TU's Water Quality Manual.

Staff contact: Jack Williams

River’s Calendar

Trout Unlimited, the University of Massachusetts and partners are developing the River’s Calendar, a community science program in which trout anglers will record the seasonal timing of aquatic insect emergence, fish movements and riparian plant flowering while fishing. This information will be translated into detailed calendars of hatches and other riparian life for each river studied – suitable for use by anglers and other river recreationists. This information will also form the basis for an objective, science-based examination of the phenology of streams – the timing of life cycles and how they are influenced by environmental and climate change. Check out the River's Calendar Starter Kit, which includes field guides for aquatic insects in Massachusetts and Oregon

Staff contact: Matt Barney

Anger Drought Survey (ADS)

Much of the Western United States has experienced intense drought for the last several years leaving small headwaters stagnant to dry and trout stressed or stranded. Trout Unlimited has partnered with Deep Creek Fly Fishers and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to conduct angler drought surveys in California. The project is piloting in the San Bernardino and San Jacinto Mountain ranges located in the San Bernardino and San Jacinto National Forests. We need anglers to collect basic data while they are out fishing, including location, trout species seen/caught, stream flow (simple method instructionS provided), and water temperature. These data will help inform state agencies of stream conditions so that they can better protect and manage coldwater fish species.

Download the ADS datasheet and training presentation.

Staff contact: Jessica Strickland

Here are some outstanding Angler Science projects from our local chapters

  • Pennsylvania:  Located near some of the best public lands in the East, volunteers from the Tiadaghton Chapter are monitoring trout streams for impacts from shale gas development as part of the Pennsylvania TU Coldwater Conservation Corps. Data collected is used to characterize impacts from shale gas development activities and establish baseline conditions in streams not yet affected. With support from an Embrace-A-Stream grant, Tiadaghton TU is conducting further analysis of impacts from shale gas development through fish and macroinvertebrate surveys as well as assessing stream passage barriers in the Little Pine Creek watershed in Northcentral PA.
  • California:  Anglers from our Golden State Flycasters are monitoring water quality and performing macroinvertebrate sampling in California steelhead streams.
  • Oregon:  Anglers from our McKenzie River Chapter are part of a cooperative project using radio telemetry to track wild rainbow and map their movements. This study will help determine impacts of hatchery rainbows on native trout fisheries of the lower McKenzie River.
  • Michigan: Michigan TU and their chapters have developed the River Stewards Program which trains and mobilizes members to monitor in-stream temperature, stream habitat, benthic macroinvertebrates, in-stream flow, and fisheries populations. The data they collect helps prioritize restoration projects, focus protection efforts toward the highest-quality coldwater streams, and drive conservation in Michigan.
  • New Mexico: In the Gila National Forest, TU volunteers are taking an active role in Gila trout conservation, protecting the Willow Creek drainage from invasion by non-native trout. During June 2016, members of the Gila/Rio Grande and Truchas chapters participated in a fish sampling effort led by state and federal agencies. Three field crews sampled Willow and Little Turkey Creeks, conducting backpack electrofishing, where fish were netted, identified, measured, and returned alive to the stream. You can read a trip report (pdf), including photos of the field work and a summary of the data collected.

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