SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Amid the ongoing response to the Covid 19 pandemic, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources has announced modifications to the daily trout stocking program and the upcoming Gold Rush fishing promotion.
Governor Jim Justice throughout the state’s response to Covid 19 has been adamant trout stocking will continue. However, with schools out and now with non-essential businesses shut down a lot more people are finding time to go fishing. Trout streams are becoming more and more crowded.
Crowds are the one thing the Governor and health officials have been warning against. Therefore, DNR Director Steve McDaniel said they’ve made a decision to stop publicizing the daily trout stocking locations.
“Temporarily we are going to cease posting the daily schedule online and on the trout stocking hotline. We’re going to continue to put the fish in the water as we always have, but we’re not going to announce where we’ve stocked. We think that’s in the best interest of the public at this time,” McDaniel said.
The news will make some folks elated and others angry. McDaniel knew that, but added they are trying do all they can to disperse crowds fishing elbow to elbow. Natural Resources Police will be along for some of the stocking runs, just to keep order.
“They’ll have more of a presence to make sure everyone is adhering to the rules. Areas with ten or more people, we’ll just not stock there. We understand everybody wants to fish, but we have to take public safety into consideration,” McDaniel said.
Suspension of the program is a non-starter since the fish need to be moved out of the hatcheries to make room for fingerlings which have already been hatched and are waiting to be moved to the raceways.
The annual Gold Rush in the past few years has evolved into an extremely popular program. More than 50,000 golden trout were due to be stocked next week across the state. Promotion of the plan was halted when the Governor declared a State of Emegency, but with the current situation, the Gold Rush is being delayed and may not happen at all according to McDaniel.
“Thousands of people turn out for the Gold Rush. We can hold onto those trout for another month or so. We’ll postpone it until the first of May and we’ll reevaluate,” he said.
If the pandemic has subsided and life is getting back to normal, McDaniel reasoned perhaps the Gold Rush could move forward, but the waters would have to change. A lot of the streams and lakes normally on the Gold Rush stocking list will be too warm by the month of May to sustain trout.
However, if the pandemic is still not letting up, and it’s still deemed unsafe, McDaniel indicated the golden trout which were raised specifically for the Gold Rush will be mixed in with the regular stocking loads and be placed into the waters through regular daily stockings and the Gold Rush will not happen.