Trout stocking

hollisd

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After buying my coffee, José Maria and Cosme invited me to the hatchery where they grow browns and bows to release into the Segre river in Spain. They said they toss in fry up to trophies like these 50-60 cm rainbows.

What’s the word on stocking rivers? How common is this worldwide? What percentage of wild trout versus stocked trout is in a typical river (e.g. extremes)? I’m all for healthy rivers so if this is what it takes; I hope the practice is responsible. How do you tell a wild from a hatchery trout?

I'm curious about Montana — do they stock rivers out west?

I went to fly fishing school at LL Bean in Freeport as a kid in the early 1990s and we visited a fish hatchery, so I know at least somewhere in Maine they were stocking rivers.

The Segre in particular the beat where these fish are released is a healthy system. I'm just curious as this really opened my eyes to something I hear about but don't see up and close often.

View attachment joined-video-d4f59da960ab4f7d989d8f78c3e48c31.MP4
 
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bumble54

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Rivers?, well a river can only support so many fish and adding too many will be detrimental to the river system overall. Having said that anglers take fish out, so if natural regeneration doesn't replace them what other option is there other than stocking. Here in the UK there is a gradual movement towards stopping stocking on rivers and allowing nature to take it's course but, and it's a big but, fish eating birds are protected and on many river system are totally out of control so few fry/parr survive long enough to breed or even make it to adulthood. Added to the constant incidents of pollution, with little meaningful prosecutions, and over abstraction by the private water companies means our rivers are always playing catch up. The birds and pollution have devastated many rivers and lakes which has led to stocking oversize bloated stock fish most of which are triploid so cannot breed. We are storing up trouble for the future and unless the government allows the culling of the most damaging birds, takes meaningful action against polluters and puts restrictions on the water companies our rivers and lakes will continue to dry up and decline.
Pressure from predators and anglers, not all of whom are there for sport, means stocking is inevitable and river and lake systems will come under undue pressure. water quality may be good but without invertebrate populations to sustain the stocked fish nature will suffer.
Without healthy rivers the environment, planet and eventually we humans will go the way of the dinosaurs.
Money talks it seems and to hell with other concerns.
It is happening all over the world unfortunately and there seems little anyone can do to stop it.
Luckily the USA is not yet in that position but it may only be a matter of time, one false move by anyone and the house of cards will tumble.
 

jzim

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Montana has not stocked their rivers since 1974. All wild. They do stock lakes.

Stocking trout is always a hot topic in the US. States that have wild and native trout such as Pennsylvania are always discussing whether the state should stock trout in waters where wild and native trout are surviving.

This should be an interesting and busy thread. I'm sure a lot of fishermen will comment.
 

trev

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Just think about trout, rainbows are only native to the Pacific Northwest, browns are native to Europe, brook trout are only native to the Atlantic coast of N America- so any of these fish in other places have been stocked there, sometimes after stocking the fish become naturalized or invasive depending on your view.
Common carp in the USA are a perfect example of stocking becoming invasive, 140 years ago someone thought carp was a good idea and spent money and time on importation of them from Europe, during the last 70 years most everyone I've talked to consider them trash fish. But they are in almost every body of water that is within their tolerance.
Stocking of trout was so prevalent in the USA in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and record keeping was lax enough that one could imagine all USA trout have some hatchery ancestry.
But yes rivers are often stocked with trout, particularly in areas where trout aren't native, marginal waters and in tail waters from man made reservoirs.
What % of stocked vs wild vs native would depend entirely on the specific river, and perhaps even on what month you ask, because some stocking is seasonal.
 

JDR

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The chapter of TU that I belong to in North Carolina, stoped officially helping with re-stocking programs about two years ago. The belief is that since stocked trout cannot breed and since they increase the population of a river, they pose a threat to the environment and resources needed to sustain a wild population. But since trout fishing brings big money, the stocking continues no matter the eventual costs. By definition, any trout in many locations are invasive species.
 

hollisd

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The belief is that since stocked trout cannot breed <snip>
How so? Surely there's inbreeding between wild and hatchery trout?

Thread not meaning to ruffle anyone's feathers. Tom Rosenbauer said there's a ton of info in academics as well as TU chapters. If anyone has any authoritative links I'd like to educate myself. If a trout population can sustain itself then surely a flyfishing catch & release only preserve wouldn't need to stock or would it like if locals show up with spinning rods and a bucket as I saw two Russian looking dudes in a Skoda van do while I was fishing. I called the town hall from the river after giving a friendly wave and had someone on them in 10 minutes.
 
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dillon

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Hollisd, in regards to your question about identitfying the origin of a trout. Hatchery trout generally will have fins that are deformed or removed. Whereas, wild and native trout will have perfectly formed straight fins. Fins become deformed when trout come into contact with the cement in crowded hatchery rearing ponds. Young trout are also very aggressive, often chasing and nipping at the fins of other fish in the pond. Some states require a fin to be removed from a hatchery trout prior to release. This is important when they are planted in waters where wild trout must be released. It is usually the adipose fin that is removed. Sometimes other fins or the maxillary is removed as a coding system so that fish biologists can identify its hatchery of origin. The practice is quite common with hatchery steelhead trout. Steelhead, an anadromus species travel great distances and sometimes stray into rivers other than their stream of origin. Many anglers, fly and gear alike, have a passion for wild salmon, trout and steelhead. They would therefore, never harvest one, even where it is legal. However, many like to harvest hatchery fish. It is then the responsibility of the angler to be able to identify their catch. Even if one releases all fish it’s interesting to know the difference...
 

KenBrown

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The streams I fish in PA are almost completely stocked trout. However, there are wild trout (supposedly) in the little lehigh that I fish as well. I have yet to catch one as the stockies are quite abundant.
 

jayr

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Tennessee stocks a lot, but not all streams. The National Forests are stocked but there are also wild streams that are not.

Most all tailwater streams are stocked, I don’t know of any that aren’t.

The GSMNP, while not state of TN waters or enforcement, the Park hasn’t been stocked since the early to mid 70’s.
 

plecain

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I don't mind stocking.
I sometimes fish for stocked trout. More often I don't.
Wild fish are prettier and just generally more fun for me to catch (and release).
Having stocked fish around, though, does have some benefits. The people who aren't willing to hike to fish and those who want to take a meal home don't go where the wild fish are, leaving those places for those who are willing to walk.
 

Ard

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Truly a complicated issue with no across the board answer. Although if I were to offer an off the cuff thought it would sound like this..........

If you have a stream or river located in an area where there is a great deal of angling pressure and the harvest of fish is allowed that stream or river may become overfished (for lack of a better word). This hypothetical stream or river may continue to host wild trout in areas far from access points but if harvest is allowed they too may eventually become threatened by harvest pressure. In reference to the OP and accompanying video I think that introducing large fish into a stream could be detrimental in that unless quickly caught and harvested those fish will likely eat everything in store over time. That could be harmful if the targeted waters have any population of young trout or any forage fishes already in balance with their environment.

Almost all of the stocking programs I have witnessed introduce the hatchery fish at public access points. Many of the introduced fish do not survive past a few weeks and survivors may become so by migrating up or down stream from the public access areas. In many instances those survivors were the seed stock for what we now recognize as wild fish in many streams and rivers especially near population centers with high fishing pressure and harvest. The good news is that a large percentage of people intent on taking fish from the stream may not venture far from the bridge, parking lot or well worn foot path where the stocked trout are or were in a high concentration. That is at the root of the often heard or read remark that, "if you're willing to hike in a mile or two the fishing is great". Whether the fishing is great far from the public access areas is attributed to a Native species or the trout are a derivative from trout introduced decades earlier can be debated ad nauseum but in most instances they are widely referred to as wild fish.

Will the introduction of quantities of hatchery fish at well known public access points where harvest is permitted affect those fish that one must 'hike in a mile or two' for? I'd suspect that a few may well end up there just as others before them had. I see the ongoing debates over to stock or not to stock as a question of management. Is a river being 'managed' as a source for the harvest of trout to be used as food or is the river managed as a recreational fishery with no kill C&R regulations. Add to the C&R regulations that anglers may not remove a fish that is to be released from the water and you may be able to have a sustained wild trout fishery.

This topic could lead one to write far too much in the way of unsubstantiated opinion so I'll be looking for an exit soon. There are so many factors at play in some of our most productive trout fisheries that I can't possibly know even half of them. One that comes to mind is the fertility of the aquatic environment itself. Some streams are teaming with life, life of all sorts ranging from macro organisms all the way up to small fishes on which a wild trout can feed throughout its entire life if it in fact is not eaten itself during some stage of development. These type fisheries may be far more able to withstand increased fishing pressure so long as the fisheries 'managers' do not fall asleep to available data regarding license sales, tourism, varying environmental conditions and the presence or absence of harvest on a river.

What I have witnessed throughout my life has been related to increased populations in formally rural areas which in some cases led to the existing stream and river resources being developed for what we can call tourism. As areas evolved from hard to reach waterways to destination fisheries many state agencies failed to recognize the growing pressure on fisheries and allowed harvest limits set far in the past to go unchanged. Many of those once vibrant streams and rivers were rendered nearly fishless due to 8 to 10 fish per day harvest limits. High daily harvest limits combined with public notoriety have had, in my opinion, devastating results. The answer in many cases was stocking programs.

In some cases anglers have been and will in the future be faced with a choice. Will you accept that you may fish for days in order to catch one fish of decent proportions or will you accept that the stream or river may need to be stocked in order to provide sport. My example of state agencies being asleep while the population and pressure on rivers has more than doubled and limits remained unchanged is based on long residency in both Pennsylvania and Alaska.

Unlike Pennsylvania where I was born well after the fisheries had been destroyed by logging and mining along with commercial harvest during the 19th century I have been here in Alaska for going on 16 years and watching a decline live, as it happens. I see only one of two choices in the future for the south central region of Alaska. Either there will need to be drastic reductions in the allowed commercial and residential harvest or there will be need for many hatcheries.

In closing this off I should say that when I began trout fishing in Pennsylvania in the mid 1960's the majority of streams I fished in were strictly put and take fisheries. There were Native Brook Trout in head water tributaries but wild brown trout were extremely rare. During 30 years of fishing there I saw the gradual increase of brown trout self populating streams but those increases could quickly be set back when people became aware of their presence and harvested limits of fish repeatedly. By the time I left PA. I had lived through a rebuilding era in which hatcheries played a major roll. Now here in AK. I witness a decline as it happens.

I have become a 100 % C&R fisherman and do not remove trout , steelhead or salmon from the water. The concept of owning a 25,000 dollar jet boat and a thirty thousand dollar truck to tow the boat with doesn't fit well with needing to kill fish for substance. If there were a run of hatchery salmon in my home rivers I would return to harvesting fish.
 

philly

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Vermont stocks lakes and rivers/streams. All kinds of details can be found on the Fish and Wildlife website:
I can think of one brook trout stream Vermont ruined by stocking rainbows. The Black River in central Vermont between Plymouth Union and Amherst Lake used to be an excellent brook trout stream when I first started fishing it in the early 80's by the early 90's the brook trout had seemingly disappeared and only rainbows were caught. Not sure whether the state stocked the river or the rainbows made their way up from Amherst Lake which is stocked with rainbows.
Here in SE PA. It's mostly put and take. The only wild trout stream in the immediate Philadelphia area is Valley Creek. The state quit stocking it in the mid-80's due to contamination from a Super Fund site. It's been a catch and release fly fishing and artificial lure creek since then. The brown trout are thriving, no rainbows to speak of. Here's a picture of one of the descendants of the original stocked trout.
20110710_3.JPG
 

cwb124

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The streams I fish in PA are almost completely stocked trout. However, there are wild trout (supposedly) in the little lehigh that I fish as well. I have yet to catch one as the stockies are quite abundant.
I still don't necessarily believe one can distinguish a stocked fish from a wild fish, unless fins are cut off like they do with stocked steelhead out west.
 

cwb124

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I have become a 100 % C&R fisherman and do not remove trout , steelhead or salmon from the water. The concept of owning a 25,000 dollar jet boat and a thirty thousand dollar truck to tow the boat with doesn't fit well with needing to kill fish for substance. If there were a run of hatchery salmon in my home rivers I would return to harvesting fish.
I am of the opinion that if people stopped lusting after a 9"-12" trout for the frying pan, many states, specifically Pennsylvania could have trophy trout fishing that would rival Montana. We have a longer growing season, much milder winters and arguably more fish food in our waters than anywhere out west. Limestone waters offer basically an unlimited buffet to fish for 10 months a year while freestone have significant hatches that should keep fish fat and happy. But...you have a good chunk of the fishing population who buy a license and fish a dozen times a year with bait and take their 6 fish limit and eat them. That's a lot of fish per person. Obviously no wild stream can sustain that type of pressure. Why these people can't just do catch and release and buy their trout at Costco (3 pack of rainbow trout for $12), I just don't get it. They would really rather eat a handful of 10" fish rather than catch 20" slabs?
 

plecain

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I still don't necessarily believe one can distinguish a stocked fish from a wild fish, unless fins are cut off like they do with stocked steelhead out west.
I can distinguish. Not with 100% accuracy, but at least 95%.

After you've looked at a few thousand of them the differences become quite clear. The wild fish just look 'better'. The fins are nearly always perfect. The scales are smooth and unruffled. As I said, better.

Occasionally, I catch a fish that could be wild or stocked based only on its appearance. Then I consider where I caught it. Has the stream been stocked recently, or ever? How did the fish feel on the line? Wild fish are usually stronger.

Then I send a picture to some friends who are also good at identifying wild fish. We exchange opinions, and reach an agreement, or not.
 

ed from bama

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Good evening to all-

Very interesting discussion.
Just speaking for myself, all of the waters I have fished for trout have been stocked. I did my early trout fishing on the tailwaters of Arkansas dams, and right below each dam was a major fish hatchery. No hatchery, no trout. Even the streams in the Smokies and far out west I have fished were stocked. And to be honest, I am very grateful for these stocked fish.
But occasionally- especially in the Arkansas trout waters, I would catch a fish that was better colored, fins all intact, and it just looked different from the usual run of stockers. In certain of the Arkansas tailwaters, trout- browns mostly- have strong fall spawning runs, and when the game and fish boys can keep the meat hunters out of the redds, there will be a good spawn of baby browns. On some of the Arkanasas rivers, there is a self-sustaining population of brown trout. Lee's Ferry on the Colorado river has a tremendous population of wild, stream-spawned rainbow trout- gorgeous fish- comparable to rainbows anywhere in the world.
But it all started with stocking.
Would I prefer all wild, native trout? Of course.
But this is not and never was possible.
so I am happy to catch whatever trout I can fool.

good night to all- Ed
 
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