Stocking program for trout is growing Hatchery-raised fish ease pressure on wild species

March 30, 1998|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

About 25,000 sun-gleaming, tail-flicking rainbow trout were dumped into Carroll County ponds and streams this month in preparation for the opening of trout season Saturday.

By summer, Carroll anglers will have snagged most of the trout. Their short lives give their wild cousins, in the relatively few Maryland streams where trout live naturally, a better chance to survive and flourish.

The goal of the trout stocking program "is to provide angling for trout you can take home and eat," said Charlie R. Gougeon, a central region fisheries biologist with the state Department of Natural Resources.

If ponds and streams were not stocked, "it would put undue pressure on our wild streams," he said.

Trout need oxygenated water 68 degrees or colder, Gougeon said. When the water gets too warm -- it can reach 90 degrees in ponds -- the fish die. He said most of the stocked trout will be fished out of ponds and streams before the water gets too warm.

The ponds are "put and take" fishing sites -- DNR puts the fish in and anglers take them out. Some streams, such as Morgan Run in Carroll County, are catch-and-release areas, where bait is barred and all trout caught must be released.

"As the angling population has grown, we've had to do all kinds of adjustments to accommodate crowds," Gougeon said.

The accommodations include adding small streams to the stocking schedule and limiting some ponds to fishermen under age 16 and over age 65, he said.

Numbers testify to the popularity of the program that will put more than a half-million hatchery-raised brown and rainbow trout into ponds, reservoirs and streams from Garrett County to Wicomico County. In the past eight years, the state has nearly doubled the number of trout released and has added 30 sites, bringing the total to 117.

In 1997, more than 80,000 people went trout fishing in Maryland. The trout stocking program's $812,000 budget is financed by fishing licenses and trout stamp sales.

Maryland's population, estimated at slightly more than 5 million, "means a big impact on our resources," Gougeon said. Urbanization and storm water runoff add sediment to streams and raise water temperatures, making it difficult for trout to survive.

Of the state's 12,600 miles of streams, only 800 miles can support wild trout, he said.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals opposes all fishing but has focused its protests on sport fishing derbies rather than trout stocking. Wildlife caseworker Stephanie L. Boyles said she understood the reasoning behind stocking streams to take fishing pressure off wild trout streams.

However, she said, "My view is not to allow these animals to suffer and die in ponds so anglers can get their kicks. It would be to abolish trout fishing or limit the season."

DNR doesn't publicize where wild trout live, but some anglers, looking for the fly-fishing experience chronicled in the movie "A River Runs Through It," find those streams.

Gougeon said Gunpowder Falls supports a wild reproducing population of trout, thanks to releases of cold, oxygenated water from the Prettyboy reservoir upstream.

"Yes, a river does run through that one, and you can go and catch trout there," he said.

So, are the anglers who put out lines immediately after a pond has been stocked shooting fish in a barrel?

"Not really," said fisherman Tony Zuccarino of Elkridge, who was at Roberts Mill Park pond in Taneytown on the day DNR trucked in 500 trout. "They might not even bite today."

Ed Peters of Littlestown, Pa., who eyed the trout for size and was pleased at what he saw, didn't plan to fish on stocking day.

"I figure they'll be in too much shock once they get into that pond," he said.

The trout go into shock because of the difference in water temperatures, explained Mark Staley, a DNR fisheries biologist. The water in the hatchery near Hagerstown where they were raised is about 50 degrees, approximately 10 degrees warmer than the water in the 5-acre Taneytown pond last week.

Trout taken from the hatchery for stocking are at least 18 months old and nine to 11 inches long. Each year, DNR keeps some yearlings at the hatchery to allow them to grow to 12 to 15 inches. They are stocked the following year.

Although fishing season officially began Saturday, anglers were allowed to fish some ponds, such as Taneytown's, before the season opened.

Pub Date: 3/30/98

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