Life of Stocked Trout
Inside the Outdoors, April 26
, 2013

Recently while attending a meeting, I listened to one speaker announce that stocked trout only live for a month. That aroused my curiosity a bit, enough to make a number of contacts to clear my mind a bit, if for no other reason.

I realize that all stocked trout are raised in hatcheries and pretty much know only one way of life from the time they are fingerlings to just before their transfer from the confines they are kept to the open waters, may they be streams, lakes or other bodies of waters.

Anyway, the first person I contacted was Eric Levis, press secretary of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, to see if he had any releases that were written on the subject. I was told that the person to talk to would be Dave Miko, chief of the Division of Fisheries Management. Here is what he had to say:

“This really depends on the water conditions of the body of water where we stock the trout. As a rule of thumb, we do not anticipate that very many of our stocked trout will survive past mid-June in the majority of the waters that they are stocked into. A very small percentage may find a cold water seep or may be stocked into waters that will support them year around. The other big factor is the weather. During hot, dry summers, much fewer stocked trout survive and many may not even make mid-June if the weather turns hot early. During cool wet years, stocked trout will survive longer,” he said.

Richard Lorson, biologist for the PFBC concurred with an additional comment.

“I echo the statement of Dave Miko. I will add that in my experience over many years when we do our stocked trout stream electrofishing surveys in June and July, we do tend to see at least a few to quite a number of stocked trout left depending on the stream and the year as Dave mentioned above.”

During the first day of trout season, I happened to be talking to a member of the Twin Lakes Fishing Association out at the concession stand, and he told me the organization had just put in 300 nice-sized rainbow trout in both the upper and lower lakes. I asked him if any of the tagged trout that were stocked last October were reported to which he responded, “You know, there are a lot of tags still out there,” he stated.

Of course, that statement aroused my curiosity again. “Do stocked trout live longer than two to four months?”

I then proceeded to Google my question over cyber space. It was interesting to learn from the PFBC website that fish have a better chance of survival if the fishermen and women follow certain guidelines. In addition, “Every angler should expect and be prepared to release some portion of his catch. The number of fish that survive depends on several factors, including the length of the fight, where the fish is hooked, water temperature, and how the fish is handled and released.” The organization also suggested:

  • Use barbless hooks. They can facilitate quick removal of a hook;
  • Try to land the fish as quickly as possible and don’t play the fish to exhaustion;
  • Keep the fish in the water even when removing the hook;
  • While removing the hook, keep the fish upside down. This will pacify it;
  • When it is not possible to remove the hook without harming the fish, cut the line.

Monty Murty, president of Forbes Trail Trout Unlimited stated, “Catch-and-release angling was pioneered by Trout Unlimited 50 years ago as a standard for all responsible anglers. It has always stood by the saying, ‘Trout are too valuable a resource to be caught only once.’” In referencing some of the work the organization does, concluding he said, “Since TU began restoring trout streams, they have gotten cleaner from mine, mill water discharge and sewage pollution. However, the newer discovered acid rain has had its own impact that makes catch-and-release important,” he added. His mention of the warning the PFBC puts out PCBs, mercury and other chemicals as to consumption warnings all lead to the fact that it is preferred to fish employing this manner of fishing. “Thus, it makes sense that anglers return trout to the waters after catching them not only under these conditions, but every time one catches them regardless of water quality,” he said.

- Paul J. Volkmann
Contact me by email

To buy my book, Off the Wall Favorites, call me at 724-539-8850.