ELKINS, W.Va. — Fall trout stocking got underway last week in West Virginia. The autumn fishing is typically disrupted by low flows in the streams of the upper reaches of the state and 2017 was no different.
But, the Division of Natural Resources hatchery personnel got a gift courtesy of Hurricane Nate which delivered one to two inches of rain to the state after making landfall in the Gulf of Mexico.
“It happens about every year and if we don’t have as much water as we would like, the staff tries their best to put the fish in pools where there is a little more water,” said Jim Hedrick Manager of Hatchery Programs for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. “Most of the times our bigger rivers, if anything is going to be adequate, it will be those larger rivers like the Elk River, the South Branch, and the North Fork of the South Branch, and Lower Shavers Fork.”
Nate allowed the stockings to be at a normal level. About 30,000 pounds of trout are stocked annually during the fall period.
Historically, the fall stocking was created with a couple of ideas in mind. First, it enables the hatchery to move out brooder fish which have outlived their usefulness for brood purposes. The fish need to be released to make way for the next generation of brood fish at the hatcheries. The timing of the stocking was also coordinated for many years with the opening of squirrel season in West Virginia.
The idea was to allow for hunting in half the day and fishing for the other, but a lot has changed since those days. The squirrel season now opens in early September and by this time of the year the archery season for big game is hitting its stride. Hedrick admits there has been some consideration given to delaying the fall stocking a week.
“It would help with the low water and give us another week to get rain,” Hedrick said. “It seems like this is a time period where we do start getting flows returning from the low flows of the summer.”
Hedrick said beyond the opportunity to catch another gully washer or two from a fall hurricane, it also would ease the pressure on the hatchery personnel trying to get the fish spawned out.
“If the spawning would occur late, it’s difficult to still get those fish spawned and get them out to the stream like they need to do,” Hedrick explained. “An extra week would really help some of those guys out.”
The fall stocking period always starts the week of Columbus Day–which means the first day is a state holiday and there is no stocking and no spawning work in the hatchery. A week’s delay, according to Hedrick, would help ease that pressure as well.
For now, the idea of delaying fall stocking by a week has only been discussed and not formally proposed for a change.