Although the first few days of January started out like most winter with heavy snow and ice, the weather of the past weeks has yielded more to the side of April than January. It’s been a huge benefit for trout fishermen who’ve enjoyed several bonus days on the riverbanks of
The DNR’s spring trout program actually starts each year during the earliest days of winter. January and February include the stocking of bi-annual waters. Each of those waters, most of which are situated in western portions of the state where it gets too warm to sustain trout after the first week of March, get two stockings a year.
The aim is to provide fishing opportunities for all anglers, but also to help clear the hatchery system of the old stock and make way for the new.
"Some of the waters will be stocked with brood stock that we finished with last fall," said DNR Coldwater Fisheries Chief Mike Shingleton. "Most of our trout, what we aim for is two trout to the pound and 10.5 or 11 inches. Most of the trout are there right about now. That will be the bulk of the stockings."
January and February weather however can be fickle. Today’s high of 50 could easily become tomorrow’s high of 20 and the sunshine which greeted you on the stream bank today could be the front end of tomorrow’s blizzard. It’s unpredictable weather, particularly for anglers who like to fish the
"January, February, and even into March we have a lot of cancellations. Our schedule is made up a week ahead of time and when that period comes there may be any number of cancellations," said Shingleton. "But those stockings are made up because we have the poundage and want to get them into the waters."
The decision about whether a truck runs on a questionable weather day lies solely with the hatchery manager. It’s also common for the trucks to make it from the hatchery, but find conditions too difficult along a stream to stock.
"When it gets down into the single digits and teens, it makes it very difficult to stock trout because their gills can literally freeze and cause damage and you may not have very good survival," warns Shingleton. "If the trucks get out and get to a stream, there’s likely places they may not stock in a couple of months from now."
A frozen impoundment is also not an impediment to stocking. Hatchery personnel armed with axes and at times chain saws open a hole in the ice at the water’s edge and turn the fish loose beneath the frozen surface. However, given the state of our winter so far, that hasn’t been much of an issue.