ELKINS, W.Va. — Chances are you’ve heard the claim all of the trout are “caught out” of a stream the weekend after it’s stocked. Heck, you may have said it yourself. But Jim Hedrick who runs the hatchery programs for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources takes exception to those claims.
He has for many years tried to explain that’s not the case, but his words seemed to fall on deaf ears. So in early June, right after the stocking schedule was over, he decided to prove his point. Hedrick headed to a well known trout stream to show there were still trout present even if they weren’t visible and the stocking was over.
“We wanted to challenge ourselves. We picked Gandy Creek which is fished as hard as any stream in the state. People camp there and they fish it every day,” he explained on a recent edition of West Virginia Outdoors.
Not only did he pick a heavily pressured stream, but he deliberately picked one with low flows and clear water. The conditions were ripe for a stream to be supposedly “picked clean.” He also sought to sample the most accessible parts of the stream right along the road where it was most likely to have fishing pressure.
Hedrick entered the water with his backpack electrofishing unit and started sending the electric currents under large rocks along the water’s edge out of the sunshine. He didn’t have to go far.
“We picked 500 yards of distance. When we would target around the big rocks, that’s where these fish were. I stopped counting. We caught well over 50 fish and I lost count,” he explained.
Anglers were nearby and watching. Some were amazed. Hedrick said the exercise offered some important observations. First, trout are wary critters and even if raised in a hatchery they quickly become feral after hitting a stream. They shy away from anything moving on the bank. It’s a threat.
“Anglers pull up and walk right down the bank when the water is clear and when they do, trout just tuck under those rocks and they’re not going to catch them,” Hedrick explained.
Another observation, stocked trout are like any other fish, there is a narrow window to catch them feeding.
“These are fish you have to catch right before dark and when the water is clear, you need to stay far upstream and cast down to them. You don’t have much fishing time between when they come out to feed and dark,” he explained.
Like any other fishing, early mornings and late evenings are the best time to target them with any great success.
“Low light and cooler temperatures will cause them to feed,” he explained. “The fish are still there, they’re just tough to catch. It’s not necessarily as much the bait you use as it is they don’t see you and you target their feeding times.”