Feral Trout

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UPDATE: The Caddis Fly has an post about stocking and Oregon steelhead. And Fly Talk has an article on breeding and stocking whirling resistant rainbows.

If I want to fish for trout within an hour’s drive of my house, I have to fish stocked waters. Actually, almost every accessible stream within reason is stocked at some point in the season. It’s a fact of life.

It’s usually easy to tell how long a trout has been in the stream by how it reacts to a fly. If it’s fresh out of the hatchery it typically blasts just about anything that drifts or swims by it, regardless of presentation. When it is hooked, it doesn’t know what to do at first, probably thinking along the lines of, “that pellet I just ate seems to be pulling me in a direction I do not wish to go. This is disconcerting.”

But as the season goes on and they survive day after day of being pummeled by catch-and-release fly anglers, they start to take on a more wary persona. They become feral like domesticated animals such as cats or pigs when left to their own devices. They start acting like, well, trout.

The whole stocked vs. wild trout debate is interesting to someone like me who primarily fishes salt and warm water. But some guys get pretty fired up about it. I once read an article by a wild trout advocate who said (paraphrasing) that the fact there is stocking at all represents a colossal failure of trout management policies.

I checked out a couple of Trout Unlimited articles on the subject and came away with the following passage:

“In those streams where water quality is exceptional, TU advocates sustainability. Those streams have qualities that enable them to withstand fishing pressure without the need for stocking. Those streams have large numbers of all sizes of fish. But TU also recognizes that most streams fail to meet the quality standards that enable native populations to be sustained. This is especially true for streams that reside within the reach of large population centers.”

And here’s a link to an article from a Pennsylvannia paper on stocked vs. wild trout. 

My questions are, if trout survive the season and then the winter as holdovers, are they then considered wild? Does their wildness then progress by degree with each subsequent season and winter?  Should it be an accepted reality that in order to have sustainable trout angling, stocking must be done, or is it, as the one guy wrote, representative of a fishery management failure?

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