Trout, trout, let them all out

Trout stocking
Thanks to the efforts of the N.C. Wildlife Resource Commission, the Ararat River is now stocked with trout along the Ararat River Greenway.
Trout Stocking
Walkers, runners and bikers on the Ararat River Greenway Wednesday afternoon may have been surprised to see a truck using the same path. Workers accompanying the hatchery truck were stocking the river with trout.

by Morgan Wall,
Staff Reporter

Mount Airy News
October 6, 2011

For the first time Wednesday afternoon, trout made their home in the lower portion of the Ararat River running from the N.C. 103 bridge to the area of the river behind B. H. Tharrington Primary School.

A hatchery truck with the N.C. Wildlife Resource Commission traveled along the greenway stocking different points of the river with rainbow, brook and brown trout. In total, around 1,620 fish were released along that section of river. The truck likely surprised runners, walkers and bikers out around lunchtime as it traveled down the greenway itself allowing stockers to add fish at several intervals. The stockers will return in November, March, April and May, bringing more trout with each visit.

The stretch of river with the newly-stocked trout falls under different fishing regulations than those that exist for fishing along the river that flows through Riverside Park, prior to the N.C. 103 bridge. The section of river flowing through the park has hatchery supported regulations. That stretch of river is stocked monthly from March through May and is closed to fishers from March 1 through the first Saturday in April. After that time, anglers can fish at any time, catching and keeping as many as seven trout each day and using any type of bait and hook.

The section of the river stocked on Wednesday falls under the delayed harvest regulations. From Oct. 1 through the first Saturday in June, any trout caught along that stretch must be released back into the river alive. Anglers are only allowed to use artificial lures — lures that neither contain nor have been treated with any substance that attracts fish by sense of taste or smell — and single hooks. Fish are more likely to swallow natural bait, allowing the hook to get caught in the stomach.

“There are different restrictions on the lures to ensure the fish are in good health when they return to the water. The single hook causes very little damage to the fish so there’s a high likelihood of them surviving to get caught by somebody else,” said Kin Hodges, district 7 fisheries biologist.

From the first Saturday in June through Sept. 30, anglers can catch trout to take home. Anglers can take up to seven fish a day and use any type of hook as well as natural or artificial bait. Natural bail is defined as any living or dead organism or parts thereof, or prepared substances designed to attract fish by the sense of taste or smell. Examples include worms, corn, salmon eggs and scented baits such as Powerbait.

“On the first Saturday in June, the regulations change so you can take the fish home and eat them. Around that time the water temperature starts to get too warm for the trout to survive, usually around 70 degrees. The change in regulations keeps them from being wasted since people can take them home to enjoy,” said Hodges.

Hodges pointed out that by having the delayed harvest regulations, there are usually guaranteed to be fish in the river during most of the year.
“With this, you have a good likelihood of having a good fishing trip,” he said. “It’s a great regulation to break in new fishers or children because for the most part there’s always going to be fish.”

To ensure there is no confusion, Hodges said he has posted signs along the greenway to let people know which regulations are in effect in which area of the river.

Officials hope this effort to stock the river with trout will help draw more tourists to the area who are interested in fishing. According to Hodges, an economic impact study concluded that trout-fishing could bring as much as $174 million to the area each year as anglers spend money on food and other supplies while they are in town fishing. He said he has already fielded several dozen calls in the past week about fishing along the river. Stocking the river with fish is not costing the city any additional money as it is a side-benefit of the work done to restore the greenway area.

“We are extremely grateful for the partnership we have with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission which allows us to do this,” said Catrina Alexander, Mount Airy Parks and Recreation director.

The river is a community-operated waterway that is open to the public for fishing. Anyone 16 years of age and older needs to carry a fishing license while fishing.

Contact Morgan Wall at mwall@mtairynews.com or 719-1929