Heads up, anglers. Trout stocked during the winter months of 2020 will be a little smaller than usual.
The reason, said Jim Hedrick, dates back several months.
“We weren’t able to get much growth on our trout during that long dry spell we had late in the summer and early into the fall,” explained Hedrick, hatchery supervisor for the state Division of Natural Resources.
“As a result, the average ‘catchable’ will be smaller this year than they were last year.”
That condition, he added, will probably change as the weather gets warmer.
“As we get more and more trout out of the hatchery, the growth rate [for the remaining fish] will increase,” he said. “We’ll push the feed to try to get them bigger as the season goes.”
Hedrick said each of the 31 streams and 30 lakes designated for January stockings will receive as many pounds of fish as they got last year. Since the trout are smaller this winter, the streams will actually get more fish than usual.
“That’s the upside to the situation,” Hedrick added.
It could have been worse. The drought broke in mid-October, and the rains replenished the hatcheries’ water supplies and allowed workers to begin feeding trout at the normal rate.
“We had a good little growth spurt for a while, but then the weather turned cold and the growth rate slowed back down again,” Hedrick said.
Five percent of the January stockings, by weight, will consist of trophy-sized “brood fish,” mature trout the hatcheries no longer need for spawning purposes.
“We start off at 5 percent, and we try to increase the percentage as the season goes along,” Hedrick said. “We’ll put those fish everywhere the water is big enough to warrant putting big fish, such as lakes and big rivers.”
Hatchery trucks are scheduled to begin running on Jan. 2, but Hedrick acknowledged that foul weather might interfere with some runs.
“We’ll stock them as soon as we can, and when it’s safe to do so,” he added. “We don’t want to have accidents or cause accidents because of slick roads.”
Last spring, Gov. Jim Justice issued a mandate that trout stocked in streams be distributed upstream and downstream from the usual stocking spots. Hedrick said wintertime conditions don’t allow that.
“It’s largely a safety issue,” he said. “The water is high and cold, and snow and ice make footing [for the distribution personnel] pretty treacherous. The benefit-to-cost ratio just isn’t there. “Besides, when the water is high, fish are able to spread out on their own.”
Streams now scheduled for January stockings include Anthony Creek, Greenbrier County; Big Bullskin Run, Jefferson; Blackwater River, Tucker; Cranberry River, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Webster; East Fork Greenbrier River, Pocahontas; Elk River, Randolph, Webster; Evitts Run, Jefferson; Gandy Creek, Randolph; Glady Fork, Randolph; Greenbrier River, Pocahontas; Greenbrier River (Cass), Pocahontas; Howard Creek, Greenbrier; Knapps Creek, Pocahontas; Laurel Fork, Webster; Little River East Fork Greenbrier, Pocahontas; Little River West Fork Greenbrier, Pocahontas; Lost River, Hardy; Middle Creek, Berkeley; Mill Creek, Berkeley; North Bend Lake Tailwaters, Ritchie; North Fork Patterson Creek, Grant; North Fork South Br., Grant, Pendleton; Opequon Creek, Berkeley, Jefferson; Rocky Marsh Run, Jefferson; Shavers Fork, Randolph; South Branch, Pendleton; Trout Run, Hardy; Twelvepole Creek, Wayne; Waites Run, Hardy; West Fork Greenbrier River, Pocahontas; and Williams River, Pocahontas, Webster.
Lakes and ponds to be stocked in January include Anderson Lake, Kanawha County; Barboursville Lake, Cabell; Cacapon Lake, Morgan; Cedar Creek Lake, Gilmer; Chief Cornstalk Lake, Mason; Chief Logan Lake, Logan; Curtisville Lake, Marion; Deegan Lake, Harrison; Fitzpatrick Lake, Raleigh; Hinkle Lake, Harrison; Huey Run Lake, Marion; James P. Bailey Reservoir, Mercer; Krodel Lake, Mason; Larenim Lake, Mineral; Laurel Lake, Mingo; Lick Creek Lake, Wayne; Little Beaver Lake, Raleigh; Miletree Lake, Roane; Mountwood Lake, Wood; Pendleton Lake, Tucker; Pennsboro Reservoir, Ritchie; Ridenour Lake, Kanawha; Rollins Lake, Jackson; Spruce Knob Lake, Randolph; Summit Lake, Greenbrier; Tomlinson Run Lake, Hancock; Tracy Lake, Ritchie; Turkey Run Lake, Jackson; and Watoga Lake, Pocahontas.