The History of Trout Unlimited
July 2009 marked the 50th anniversary of TU's founding on the banks of the Au Sable River near Grayling, Michigan. The 16 fishermen who gathered at the home of George Griffith were united by their love of trout fishing, and by their growing discontent with the state's practice of stocking its waters with "cookie cutter trout"—catchable-sized hatchery fish. Convinced that Michigan's trout streams could turn out a far superior fish if left to their own devices, the anglers formed a new organization: Trout, Unlimited (the comma was dropped a few years later) dedicated to ensuring that wild and native trout populations were allowed to thrive, as nature intended.
From the beginning, TU was guided by the principle that if we "take care of the fish, then the fishing will take care of itself." And that principle was grounded in science. "One of our most important objectives is to develop programs and recommendations based on the very best information and thinking available," said TU's first president, Dr. Casey E. Westell Jr. "In all matters of trout management, we want to know that we are substantially correct, both morally and biologically."
In 1962-63, TU prepared its first policy statement on wild trout, and persuaded the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to curtail "put-and-take" trout stocking and start managing for wild trout and healthy habitat. On the heels of that success, anglers quickly founded TU chapters in Illinois, Wisconsin, New York, and Pennsylvania.
From its hundreds of local stream restoration projects, to helping lead the way to remove the Edwards Dam on the Kennebec River in Maine, to compelling Congress to strengthen the Clean Water Act, TU has a strong 50 year track record of conservation achievements. Perhaps TU's greatest strength is that it works at multiple levels of society and government to achieve its mission. From the landowner on the stream bank, to the state fisheries agency, to the Halls of Congress, TU is working to achieve its vision.
To conserve, protect and restore North America's coldwater fisheries and their watersheds.
By the next generation, Trout Unlimited will ensure that robust populations of native and wild coldwater fish once again thrive within their North American range, so that our children can enjoy healthy fisheries in their home waters.
Who We Are
Founded in Michigan in 1959, Trout Unlimited today is a national non-profit organization with 147,000 members dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds. Our staff and volunteers work from coast to coast to protect, reconnect, restore and sustain trout and salmon habitat on behalf of today’s anglers and coming generations of sportsmen and women who value the connection between healthy, intact habitat and angling opportunity.
From forested rivers like the Farmington in Connecticut to the pristine waters of Alaska’s Bristol Bay and all points in between, TU’s work spans nearly a million miles of cold water all across North America. TU is the most effective coldwater fisheries conservation organization in the country. Donors invest in TU because we get things done on the ground, in statehouses and on Capitol Hill.
TU has a basic approach to its conservation strategy. First, we use the best available science to protect headwater spawning habitat for trout and salmon. We reconnect tributaries with their rivers to ensure resilience, and we restore waters where development has impacted trout and salmon and the opportunity to fish for them. Second, we sustain our work on the ground by:
- Using the best science to drive conservation priorities
- Promoting and maintaining a strong legal and regulatory framework to protect fish and fishing opportunity
- Connecting with passionate anglers who want to give back to the resource they value so much
- Increasing our ability to engage TU members in conservation by training, educating and building a strong community of angler advocates
- Connecting with generous donors and helping them give to the fish they cherish and the places they love
- Helping members connect and communicate with one another via our website, TROUT Magazine and the TU Blog
If you’re interested in becoming a part of TU and giving back to the fish and the places you value, become a member and help us ‘save the world, one trout at a time.’