It’s an odd fit, for sure.
Earlier this week, the Kanawha County Commission announced a plan to stock 1,000 pounds of rainbow trout in the Elk River near Clendenin.
Yes, you read that right. The Elk River. Near Clendenin.
According to the news release, the stocking will take place on Nov. 16. Unless I miss my guess, a stocking of that size will attract plenty of anglers.
The commissioners are touting the stocking as an attempt to boost the Clendenin-area economy. The release quoted Commissioner Kent Carper, who called it “part of the Commission’s commitment to the revitalization of the Clendenin area.”
“This will provide months of fishing and outdoor family fun!” he continued.
Days? Certainly. Weeks? Possibly.
More likely it will be a short-term proposition, and here’s why:
First, that stretch of the Elk isn’t trout water. Trout are cold-water fish, and they need cold, oxygen-rich water to survive.
The Elk, between Sutton Dam and the Kanawha River, is more of a warm-water stream, better suited for muskies, bass and catfish than it is for trout.
At this time of the year, it doesn’t much matter. The cold nights we’ve experienced recently have lowered water temperatures enough that the trout should remain comfortable until spring.
They’ll die when water temperatures exceed 80 degrees for a few days in a row. Warm water doesn’t hold as much oxygen as cold water, and 80-degree water simply doesn’t hold enough oxygen to keep a rainbow trout alive.
By that time, however, most of the trout being stocked on Nov. 16 will be gone.
Some of them will be caught. Pre-announced stockings tend to draw big crowds, and this one should be no exception. The dumb, semi-addled hatchery rainbows will be easy to catch, at least for a few days.
Getting to those fish might be a problem, though.
The Elk through Clendenin is a big river with high, steep banks lined with houses and businesses. For anglers’ sake, I hope local residents and business owners will be willing to allow anglers to access the river through their properties. If they don’t, things could get a bit testy.
Anglers in boats will probably fare best, at least after the trout have had a chance to spread out from the stocking point. Until that happens, the boaters who get there early and drop anchor over the schooled-up trout will catch most of the fish.
They’ll need to work quickly. The longer a bunch of hatchery-stupid, soft-muscled 9- to 12-inch trout remain in the water, the more likely they are to be gobbled up by the big muskies that prowl that stretch of the Elk.
When a friend of mine, a muskie angler, found out about the stockings, he couldn’t contain his glee. “There’ll be a bunch of fat muskies in the Elk next spring!” he exulted.
For those who might fret about such things: There’s nothing in West Virginia law that prohibits private trout stockings in public waters, provided the trout aren’t imported from outside the state. These trout will be provided by the same hatchery that supplies Indian Lake, near Elkview.
As I said at the beginning of this column, trout stockings seem like an odd fit for that section of the Elk, but as long as people are able to fish safely and have some fun, what’s the harm?