Were I so inclined, I could walk outside the Gazette offices during my lunch hour and cast a lure to any number of fish species.
The Kanawha River contains largemouth, smallmouth, spotted, white and hybrid striped bass; flathead and channel catfish; walleye; sauger; muskellunge; several sunfish species; freshwater drum; carp; smallmouth buffalo; longnose gar; skipjack herring; sturgeon; paddlefish; shad and other small forage fish.
Not bad for a river that, 45 years ago, was pretty much dead.
In the mid-1960s, fish kills occurred routinely along the Kanawha. Industrial pollution, untreated sewage and untreated mine discharges wreaked havoc on the river's fish. Dissolved oxygen levels got so low during hot summers that even catfish and carp had trouble surviving. Less robust species didn't stand a chance.
Then something happened.
The federal Clean Water Act of 1972 forced polluters to clean up the stuff they were pouring into the nation's waterways.
The act authorized federal and state governments to set limits on pollution and to enforce those limits.
With the equivalent of a regulatory gun to their heads, industry leaders put their engineers and scientists to work devising ways to reduce pollution. The brainiacs came through. Pollution levels began to drop — slowly at first, but more rapidly as better pollution-abatement technology became available.
As pollution disappeared, the Kanawha's game fish reappeared.
Catfish and other hardy species were the first to recover. Basses and sunfishes came along later. Finally, sauger and other pollution-sensitive "indicator species" staged comebacks.