History and Study bring Stocked Trout Program into the future

In the first part of this pair of stories Steve Reeser, a fish biologist with the Virginia Department of Inland Fisheries told us about the process his research team with Virginia Tech took to learn as much as possible about the Stocked Trout Program. What it reveals is much more than even the most enthusiastic anglers may know. Fishing is on the decline across the whole country, but this agency wanted figures and comments to try to understand why, at least in Virginia. To begin the long document is a history. Reeser explained

“It goes back to when trout were first stocked, starting in the 1930s and how that’s progressed to the present day. We used to have an Opening Day of Trout Season, where trout season was closed for about a month and a half in February and March, and then the first Saturday in April was Opening Day. And that was the way we ran our Stocked Trout Program in Virginia until 1996 until we went to a more year round season.”

Then the management plan continues with information, and answers to questions anglers might ask.

“What stream and lakes to stock? How those are selected, the species of trout we stock; why we may stock brook trout only in certain streams; why we may stock brown trout in certain areas. How many fish do we stock, the density of fish, how we determine that, how often we stock.”

Just when I thought it wasn’t possible to learn more about “all things trout” Reeser explained what was in the part of the plan after the history.

“Just some great information about just the five cold water hatcheries that we own and operate, and kind of a little bit about each one.”

For a visit to one of these state of the art facilities and to see many, many fish in all stages of development, stop by Coursey Springs just south of Williamsville.

Reeser continued,

“And what goes into raising a trout to stockable size, to catchable size. And also some of the limitations and difficulties that come with aquaculture and raising fish. It’s just like farming. You know you’ve got some other things, some other variables that affect the way, how fish grow, and how they do. So there’s a lot of good information in there to maybe answer some questions and dispel some myths out there about how we stock trout, why we stock trout, where, and other things about just the biology of trout.

In such a controlled setting as a hatchery, there are variables that keep from guaranteeing a huge number of trophies, or exceptional fish every year. Steve Reeser continued with what was learned or reinforced during the project.

“Just how long it takes trout to reach ten inches in a hatchery, or the fact that some species of trout grow much faster and are more easy to raise in hatchery systems. Say, rainbow trout are probably the fastest growing, easiest to raise. That’s why upwards of seventy percent of the trout that we raise are rainbow trout because they do the best, where brown trout are probably the most problematic and the slowest growing.”

Then, once the fish leave the hatcheries, there is a new set of data to be collected and analyzed.

“We purposely set up the creel surveys, these angler surveys like that. We wanted to know what the catch rates were like the day of stocking, the day after, the first weekend after stocking and then up to two to three weeks out.”

The answers to these questions seem to be just the kind of thing an angler would like to know on any fall day filled with sunshine and nearby mountain streams. How about sharing your fishing stories on Allegheny Mountain Radio’s Facebook page? Then we could include them with the rest of this report in a later edition.


Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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