Trout in the South? Absolutely. South Carolina has a surprising amount of coldwater habitat, including tumbling, high-elevation headwater streams and chilly tailwaters. State officials estimate an impressive 50,000 anglers take advantage of these fishing opportunities, which not only creates a large base of engaged stakeholders but also contributes an estimated $18 million to the state’s economy.
Fish We're Protecting
Threats & Opportunities
Modeling has shown that South Carolina’s freestone trout waters could be at risk from rising temperatures, especially in lower elevations, as the streams transition from coldwater to warmwater habitat. Public ownership of much of the landscape high in these watersheds means that TU can take advantage of long-standing relationships with partners such as the Forest Service to improve habitat and work that will make the streams more resilient. The popular tailwater fishery in the lower Saluda River has helped create a large base of engaged stakeholders.
How We Work
We’re advocating for removing or improving fish passage at barriers large and small. Removing dams or other barriers, such as perched culverts, will improve trout access to key habitat.
We are using a variety of tools, including the Eastern Brook Trout Conservation Portfolio, to prioritize streams where habitat restoration is most needed and where it will have the most impact and best chance for long-term success. Restoration efforts include stabilizing stream banks and improving riparian health by planting native trees.
We are engaging landowners to protect South Carolina’s coldwater trout streams by advocating for commonsense development, working with land trusts to protect key places, and setting up conservation easements. By working with state freshwater fisheries officials, we are in a better position to advocate for needed regulatory protections.
How You Can Help
Help us assess barriers to fish passage and get your hands dirty with us on restoration projects.TAKE ACTION
Learn about our work caring for and recovering Priority Waters in South Carolina and across the Southeast.
Chattooga / Savannah Headwaters
Boisterous and bold, the Chattooga drops an average of 49 feet per mile in its first 10 miles in North Carolina before forming the border between Georgia and South Carolina. While the main river is stocked by both Georgia and South Carolina, there are also some wild trout in the main river. The Chauga River is a solid fishery with a mix of wild and stocked trout. A number of tributaries on the South Carolina side are filled with wild trout. A number of higher-elevation tributaries to the Keowee River hold wild trout populations. This watershed has the potential to be a climate change-resistant brook trout stronghold and features many possible projects to reconnect habitat by addressing fish passage barriers.
Saluda River Watershed
In its middle reaches, the scenic Saluda River plunges an astonishing 1,000 feet in just five miles. Designated a Class I Natural River under the South Carolina Scenic Rivers Act, the Saluda is primarily a wild rainbow trout fishery but supports some brown trout as well as native brook trout, which likely enter the river from smaller tributary streams. Far downstream, the Saluda tailwater below Lake Murray is one of the Southeast’s best urban wild trout fisheries.