#CleanMyWater: Trout Unlimited Launches Nationwide Cleanup Contest for Trout Week

Written by: Preston Ni, Trout Unlimited Costa 5 Rivers College Club Intern

As September comes to a close, your photos and stories from this year’s 20 Days in September serve as a reminder for why we love the sport of fly fishing. As anglers, it is our obligation to care for and recover the waters we enjoy. With more people exploring the natural resources available to them, it is becoming more important for us to be conscious of our impact.

That’s why Trout Unlimited is launching the #CleanMyWater contest and movement during Trout Week, Sept. 25 – Oct. 2. Entering is simple.

  1. Go fishing on your favorite water body
  2. Pick up trash on your way off the water
  3. Snap a photo of your haul and slap #CleanMyWater and @cleanmywater on Instagram

Editor’s note: Add #20sepdays and #orvisflyfishing, and you’ll also qualify to win a pair of Orvis Nippers.

By doing your part to “just pick the dang stuff up,” you’ll also have a shot at some sweet prizes. Visit cleanmywater.org for more info on the #CleanMyWater movement and the Trout Week contest.

No one wants to foul hook a tire at the bottom of a river or be hit in the leg with a beer can as it floats by. Trout Unlimited’s Clean My Water campaign is a way for all who love the outdoors, especially anglers, to improve the health and beauty of their local waterways, creating a more enjoyable experience for everyone. 

How #CleanMyWater Started

A #CleanMyWater participant with a half-full bag returns to the river to hunt for more trash.
Photo by @wingedreel

In 2019, a group of anglers in North Georgia became concerned when they noticed that several of their local rivers were being overtaken by litter. Not ones to simply grumble about litterbugs, or be discouraged and go home, this group began hauling nets full of trash back to their vehicles every time they hit the water.

Soon, backyard barbecues and Trout Unlimited events were abuzz with conversations not only of heroic fights with monster trout, but of stories detailing the removal of strange and exotic pieces of refuse. Some folks even began taking pictures of their more impressive finds to share with the group.

As participation increased, the crew began to notice their work having a noticeable positive impact on the amount of trash in the rivers they fished. They believed that this approach could be successfully applied to other communities, if they could only get the word out. After some discussion, they came up with a plan to utilize social media as a tool to challenge a much larger group of anglers to make a change. And with that, the #CleanMyWater initiative was born.

All sorts of of unusual items grace the Instagram board of #CleanMyWater.
Photo by @sierra.james

“Clean my water is about current generations and future generations,” said Connor Reynolds, a #CleanMyWater founder and past presiden tof TU’s local chapter in Atlanta. “If we can take care of our waters today, and teach future generations, then we can leave better trails and rivers for our next generation to enjoy.”

One goal of the initiative was to make participation as simple as possible. After all, the more people willing to pick up trash as they recreate, the larger their collective impact. Originally, the campaign was focused around Georgia, but it quickly gained national attention.

Since 2019, participants from over 40 states have had a positive impact through their commitment to the #CleanMyWater movement.

4 thoughts on “#CleanMyWater: Trout Unlimited Launches Nationwide Cleanup Contest for Trout Week”

  1. Just think how beautiful and clean our rivers, streams, and trails would be if EVERYONE picked up some trash after fishing or hiking. It’s easy…Just Pick the Dang Stuff Up!


  2. This is refreshing to see – the next generation leaders (5Rivers), leading by example. Great job all pulling this together for Trout Week 2021!

    1. I like the idea of the cleanup contest. There needs to be more events like this. Every year, many members and volunteers from west virginia try to clean up the same river system. The event is named the elkhorn cleanup, and dubbed ‘help the horn’. This stream lies in an old mostly abandoned coal town called welch. Most people still living there are too poor to afford trash services and everytime it floods the old abandoned homes and businesses wash in more trash. The west virginia trout unlimited southern chapter organizes the event over a weekend. Some tributaries have produced over 20 dumpsters of trash. Over the years the tributaries have become cleaner. The same tributary the last few years only produced a few dumpsters. Even if it never gets cleaned up, it provides a good example to others when they see many people working together cleaning out the river and demonstrating people value the water.

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