History of Trout Unlimited

TU first magazineTROUT UNLIMITED


.     On a warm spring day in 1950, George Mason met George Griffith at Burton’s Landing, the upstream origin of the AuSable River “Holy Water”. Mr. Mason had been president of the Nash-Kelvinator corporation which later evolved into American Motors. He was also acting treasurer of Ducks Unlimited.

Mr. Griffith, the State Conservation Commissioner, discussed the declining condition of quality trout water and Mason suggested the concept of developing an organization to protect trout and their environs. Mason suggested that a “Trout Unlimited” group be organized. He was the quintessential conservationist whose dictum was that fishing with other than a flyrod put the river in a “meat market” class.

A few years later, in 1954, Mason bequeathed thirteen miles of the South Branch of the AuSable along with thousands of acres of adjacent land to the State of Michigan, requesting that the area be left undeveloped and all existing structures be left alone to eventually return the area to its natural state.

Fast forward to July 18, 1959. George Mason had since passed away, but Mr. Griffith invited sixty concerned anglers to his home, the “Barbless Hook” on the banks of the Holy Water above Wakeley Bridge. Only sixteen individuals attended the inaugural meeting of what became “Trout, Unlimited” (the comma was later dropped). Mr. Griffith declined becoming the first president as it could interfere with his remaining 15 months on the Conservation Commission.

Dr. Casey E. Westell Jr. was elected TU’s first president. He stated, “One of our most important objectives is to develop programs and recommendations based on the very best information and thinking available.”

Art Neumann, TU’s first vice-president, became the executive director in September, 1962. He had the goal of transforming Trout Unlimited into a national organization.

TU prepared its first policy statement on wild trout and persuaded the Michigan DNR to begin the process of eliminating “put-and-take” trout stocking and to begin a systematic approach to managing habitat for wild trout.

Subsequently, the success of TU in Michigan encouraged anglers to start “chapters” in Illinois, Wisconsin, New York and Pennsylvania.

Since those incipient years, TU has grown dramatically. The organization works from a grass roots level with 380 “chapters” across the country – each responsible for their local watersheds – to the congressional level, establishing environmental policy into law.

Notwithstanding the myriad positive environmental accomplishments this organization has achieved, every member holds in his or her heart our mission . . . “To conserve, protect, and restore North America’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds.”

Dr. Ken Gum

March, 2016