Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Why Streams are Stocked with Trout and What of It

Keep in mind information the first couple of paragraphs or so is dated. What will be stocked this fall, I don't know, except that they will be rainbow trout. The article is worth the reading for more than just stocking figures.

25,000 yearling trout, 500 broodstock, to be stocked in October

By Bruce Litton

          Furunculosis at the Pequest Hatchery this past spring will result in smaller brown and rainbow trout stocked this fall throughout the state. Seven to nine-inch fish will enter Highlands streams during October’s first and second weeks. I heard a lot of complaints about the spring fishery, and I can hear the groans now, but you can expect a full stocking schedule for spring and fall next year with standard-size trout. In addition to the little trout this fall, a total of 500 rainbows between 18 and 24 inches will be stocked throughout the state. Remember that not very long ago tiny five and six-inch trout were stocked in the fall. I remember when stocking was only a springtime affair. Nature deals its blows and we are vulnerable in response to them. The Pequest Hatchery has proved to be no exception, but the program has improved over the years and is the best it can be for now.

          I won’t give a dated listing of stocking in our region. You can go online for this. In our region, only rivers and streams are getting trout in October. Some ponds and lakes to the south will be stocked. Since none of us can anticipate the 14 to 16-inch fall trout of previous years, the North Branch Raritan, Paulinskill, Musconetcong, Pequest, Walkill, Black, Rockaway, Wanaque, Ramapo, and South Branch Raritan rivers, along with Pohatcong Creek, and Big Flat Brook will attract less interest.

          Fall always means fewer turn out than spring, and not only because fewer trout are stocked. When enjoyment of pleasant weather and scenery begins to grow in April next year, the likelihood is that some of the fall stockers will have remained in the rivers and streams all winter, well acclimated to the wild. This won’t make a broad difference in the number of fish caught on Opening Day, nor will additional catches likely be noticed throughout the season, but the thought can add a little spice of interest. Catch a trout slightly more than seven inches and speculate.

          So that’s the hatchery news. It may be wise to remember that most of the streams I’ve mentioned have holdover trout. Wild trout also, and even native brook trout in parts of the South Branch and Big Flat Brook, enter these larger flows from spring-fed tributary summer residences. Most of these more appealing wild fish are no larger than what the state will stock in October. Nevertheless, to cite an example, Joe Cermele recently had an article published in Field & Stream magazine which details an electroshock survey on the South Branch. One 150-meter section of river yielded 200 wild trout as large as 20 inches, so don’t make the mistake of thinking they’re all small.

          Fly rodding is particularly fitting for fall trout fishing, whether or not you even bother to fish one of the stocked streams. Plenty of ignored streams have robust populations of wild and native trout. Fly fishing emphasizes a subtler approach to wild and stream acclimated trout, fish that fit natural surroundings better than stockers plucked from large pods fused together right where they’ve been dumped.

          I like to think the goal of every stocking is to allow a very few trout to holdover and breed where this is possible. This doesn’t always happen, but when it does, a modern cycle of human intervention in wild spaces is completed. I think it’s important to remember that people have always intervened to bend the wild to their desires. The history of mankind subduing wilderness goes back to Paleolithic peoples. Our effort at introducing hatchery raised trout into wild or semi-wild rivers is not so much a symptom of modern demise as may seem, given the elimination of about 50% of native trout, not if you keep in mind that people always adjust natural environments to themselves.

          Nonetheless, most of us like wading rivers without encountering a worm carton left on the bank by someone else, or stumbling across a discarded Mepp’s spinner package lodged between stones. And most of us like to know trout survive in our rivers, many of us releasing most or all of our catch. Although we suit places to our needs and pleasure, environmental appreciation certainly includes a desire to experience clean, healthy ecosystems of which we all are, in some ways or others, part.

          Our individual health ultimately depends on the world’s environments. Getting out fly fishing this fall at Dunnfield Creek, for example—high in the mountains—is a way to rejuvenate more than mood. Positive experience helps improve the physical chemistry of the body, just as a holdover trout becomes sleeker, quicker, and much more perceptive due to improvements of its physique in a wild environment.


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