Margaret and Don Crow together hold a 52-pound chinook that Margaret caught during a drift trip on the middle Rogue River given to the Crows for their volunteer work for the Middle Rogue Steelhead Chapter of Trout Unlimited.

Trout Unlimited group lands top award

GRANTS PASS — The Middle Rogue Steelhead Chapter of Trout Unlimited has mined the mighty Rogue River running through this town for all its needs.

Fishing trips on Rogue for new or prospective members. Angling classes for the unschooled fisher-to-be wanting to try their hands on the Rogue's popular steelhead and fall chinook salmon.

And sometimes there's a free driftboat fishing trip on the middle Rogue for members who work hard planting trees around streams, count fish or otherwise help improve the habitat of the Rogue's wild fish.

"Our draw is the good fishing that runs right through where we live. That's our magnet," says Mike Cooley, the Grants Pass-based chapter's departing president. "Really, the boat trips are a reward for supporting our conservation activities."

A new reward has come over the transom for the TU chapter, and it's bigger than a boat trip.

The 500-plus member chapter has won the Silver Trout Award, recognizing the group of Grants Pass-based anglers for its outstanding work in fish conservation and angling education.

The Boise-based TU grants the award annually to the chapter that has made outstanding contributions to the cause of cold-water conservation during the previous year.

With about 160,000 members in about 450 chapters nationwide, Trout Unlimited is one of the larger national organizations that works for the restoration of cold-water fishery habitat.

The award was presented Saturday during Trout Unlimited's annual convention in Boise.

The chapter won the same award in 1998, making it one of only a handful of chapters nationwide to double-dip at the trophy cabinet.

"The Grants Pass chapter is always considered one of the top chapters in the country for what these guys do," says Tom Wolf, head of TU's Oregon Council. "And it's not just for one specific thing. It's for all the different projects they do.

"They're seen as the best of the best," Wolf says.

Cooley says the chapter has more than 500 members, making it a relatively large TU chapter. But it sports a core group of about 150 men and women who regularly attend monthly meetings and help on countless conservation projects, Cooley says.

"Most chapters have only a handful of guys who do all the work," Cooley says.

In bestowing the award, TU leaders cited a number of stream-restoration projects the chapter has done on Rogue tributaries.

Organizational leaders also lauded the group for teaching students in local elementary schools and the re-building of a popular boat launch at Hog Creek on the Rogue River.

The chapter has also worked in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area by stocking juvenile steelhead to counter invasive largemouth bass that were illegally placed in Babyfoot Lake, the wilderness area's largest lake.

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