10:06am: Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval

Gold Rush to run April 1-13 across West Virginia

ELKINS, W.Va. — One of the state’s most popular fishing programs will get started Monday and run for two weeks. The annual “Gold Rush” is slated for April 1-13 in which the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources stocks exclusively golden trout during the weekly stocking period.

“It’s not additional fish and it’s not additional stockings,” said Jim Hedrick, Manager of Hatchery Programs for the West Virginia DNR. “It is a regularly scheduled stocking at one of our regular waters, the only thing that changes is the color of the fish.”

The Golden Trout was developed in the late 50’s and early 60’s by accident in West Virginia’s Petersburg Trout Hatchery. The pigment mutation in a rainbow trout was noticed by a hatchery worker who realized the first golden trout was female and spawned her eggs. The color gene was strong and through time DNR hatchery personnel were able to develop an abundance of golden trout each year.

Today, the hatcheries prepare year round for the Gold Rush program.

“We have to plan about three years ahead,” Hedrick explained. “We’re at maximum production, but all we did was hatch more goldens and use them to replace our rainbow trout. We stock by weight, so it doesn’t change anything. We still produce the same amount of fish, we just produce more goldens that are stocked during that time period.”

Started only a few years ago, the fishing public in West Virginia has latched on and now looks forward to the Gold Rush each year. It’s deliberately set around Easter in hopes of falling into the school spring break of students and their parents.

“That’s normally what we try to do. The original purpose of the Gold Rush was to create a family friendly fishing event, in hopes of families putting it on their calendar and planning an outdoor event,” he said.

During the Gold Rush stockings, the DNR tries to make sure they hit a number of lakes and State Park sights along with trout streams. They try to have an adequate number of waters stocked in the two weeks which have easy access for children and bathroom facilities close by to make it easier and more convenient, especially with young children.

The golden trout are easy to spot in a waterway and typically draw a lot of attention from anglers as well as predators. By stocking them heavily, the agency hoped to draw families and youngsters to the waters edge to try and catch them. But, Hedrick admitted it can make them harder to catch.

“I think you’re right and because people can see them more easily, they tend to target them a little more while fishing. Sometimes that can make them become scared and make them harder to catch,” Hedrick explained.

You can learn more about the Gold Rush, including the waters on the stocking list, at the DNR’s website and if you catch one you’re encouraged to post it to social media with the hashtag #WVGoldRush.

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