By John Torisello

It takes a community to save a river. Luckily, for Fairfield County residents, that’s exactly what’s happening along the Norwalk River thanks to the Mianus Chapter of Trout Unlimited, a nationwide organization with 300,000 members spanning 36 states. With a mission to conserve, protect, and restore North America’s cold-water fisheries and their watersheds, Trout Unlimited’s hope is that generations to come may enjoy healthy fisheries in their home waters.

Trout Unlimited’s sentiment is echoed by Jeff Yates, secretary of the Mianus Chapter and member since he was 11 years old. A Wilton High School graduate, Yates says he and his dad initially joined Trout Unlimited because they were interested in learning more about fishing locally, but they quickly found conservation and river restoration to be a shared passion.

Over the last few decades, Trout Unlimited has consistently increased their efforts to preserve and protect the Norwalk River. “Since the early 1990s, more than three-quarters of a million dollars has been spent on restoring trout habitat and ensuring a clean and cold Norwalk River,” says Yates. “Fairfield County residents see the importance of having an ideal habitat for trout.”

One recent project that carried a six-figure budget focused on Schenck’s Island. It involved narrowing the channel to create a deep pool habitat for wild fish; the project created 30 such pools and placed two-dozen trees and 200 boulders in the river. “The turnout of families was wonderful. It exemplified the fact that Trout Unlimited is an amazing organization for families,” says Yates. “Trout Unlimited truly offers so many ways to connect around fishing, conservation, and community,” he adds.

Trout Unlimited has also launched a project at Wilton’s Meadowbrook School that will undertake stormwater mitigation, preventing waters from flowing into nearby Norwalk River streams. “This is the perfect project to begin our stormwater runoff efforts,” says Yates. “The community sees this as a way to educate about the human impact on nature,” Yates adds. The project has received a $90,000 grant from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, administered through DEEP.

“I can’t emphasize enough how great an organization Trout Unlimited is for families,” shares Yates. “Hundreds of youngsters from kindergarten through college are involved in Trout Unlimited activities,” he adds. The organization offers youth education programs, family fishing days, Boy Scout and Girl Scout partnership programs, high school and college internships, and more.