ELKINS, W.Va. — Amid the still waters of the eddy just off the riffle, the two fish huddled. There was little they could do to hide their conspicuous coloration. They seemed to realize they were different and unlike the more camouflaged skin of others within the stream, they wore a target on their backs. The “knowledge” seemed to also make them more wary of taking a bait than any other fish in the stream.
The West Virginia Golden Trout is a peculiar creature. Developed in the West Virginia trout hatchery system during the 1960’s, the golden is a rainbow trout with a genetically altered pigment. The Division of Natural Resources rears several thousand of the critters each year and disperses them among the regular rainbow trout annually into the state’s streams and lakes as part of the wildly popular put and take trout program.
But in 2018, at the behest of DNR Director Steve McDaniel, the golden trout became even more of the shining star of the water in West Virginia than it had ever been. It was the inaugural “Gold Rush” in West Virginia in which golden trout were stocked exclusively for six straight days.
“It was a pretty big hit. We had a lot of folks to take advantage of the opportunity to catch a golden trout,” said Jim Hedrick, Hatchery Programs Manager for the West Virginia DNR. “Many of our anglers, young and old, had not caught one before. A lot of the parks where the Gold Rush took place, people say a lot of kids and families were out fishing.”
It was such a popular program, it’s back for 2019. This year’s Gold Rush will be April 1-6 and they have added a Saturday stocking into the mix.
“It should be very similar to last year. We’ve adjusted a few of the waters,” Hedrick said. “The main change this year is almost half of the waters are going to be stocked on Saturday, April 6th.”
The timing of the event is key. Officials tried to pick the week most commonly used for spring break in the West Virginia schools. Since each county operates its own calendar, not all students are on break at the same time, but there are a considerable number. The Saturday stocking was added to insure at least one day when parents are off work and kids are out of school.
Trout program leaders will also stock the goldens into waters which are in close proximity to West Virginia State Parks. The idea is to give families a chance to take advantage of the fishing together.
“They are stocked all across the state in a lot of different waters, however they are directed toward public water. We didn’t want an abundance of anglers in places where we have private land,” said Hedrick. “Parks are great public water and offer a lot of other accommodations with food and restrooms that other locations may not offer. It really does make it a great family fishing location.”
Successful anglers who catch golden trout during the week are encouraged to share pictures on social media using the hashtag #WVGoldRush. You can learn more about stocking locations with the West Virginia Gold Rush at their website.
Hedrick also suggested if you aren’t free to make it out for the Gold Rush week, there will still be plenty of opportunities to catch golden trout and many others stocked across West Virginia.
“There are lots and lots of fish stocked,” Hedrick said. “The key is once we stock them, they last in the water for a long time. You don’t have to be there on stocking day to have a good opportunity to catch one. You can return to the location weeks later and still be successful.”