The West Virginia DNR’s trout stocking program is now in high gear. Despite heavy snowfalls in the mountains during the late fall and winter, stock trucks have been able to roll without too much trouble to keep the spring stockings constant.
Biologists say the biggest problem has been low flows from a lack of rainfall. The mountains where the bulk of the trout streams are located, were running very low after the long dry spell of last fall and the rain in 2008 is below average.
The biggest criticism of trout stocking fielded by the DNR year-in and year-out is that most can’t make it to their favorite stream until the weekend, normally several days after a stocking. There’s a belief most of the fish are caught by then, however Mike Shingleton who heads up the Coldwater Fisheries Program for DNR says they have proven conclusively that’s not the case.
"If we stock on a Tuesday or Wednesday and somebody gets there Saturday the stream has had a lot of pressure on it,” admits Shingleton. "We just finished up three years of tagging trout and watching the catch rates. Every water we tagged trout in showed at least half the fish were still there a week to ten days after we stocked."
Shingleton says what anglers are finding is not that the fish have been fished out, but they’ve become acclimated to their new wild environment and have taken more instinctive feeding and movement patterns.
"They hang in there and they start moving a little bit, especially rainbows," said Shingleton. "If a fisherman shows up on a Saturday he shouldn’t concentrate just on where we stocked and his techniques may be a little bit different."
Many wonder exactly where the fish are stocked. The points in the stream where the fish are deposited are easily identified if you pay attention to the points where the road and stream are in closest proximity.
"Bridges are good access and then wherever the access road gets close to the stream,” said Shingleton. "We carry trout, but we can’t carry them very far."
The DNR has produced an on-line map of stocked streams in West Virginia. You can access that map HERE. You can also get a daily update on the locations of stockings by clicking HERE.