Right now, Randolph County is definitely in the dead of winter, but the personnel at the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources are not sitting on their laurels. In the second week of January, they started the trout stockings whenever the locations and weather was suitable.
I have always liked the idea of the year-round trout fishing we have in this state. This setup offers outstanding fishing opportunities for the more than 200,000 resident anglers. In addition to this, non-residents anglers have come here in large numbers from Maryland and Pennsylvania, where they have established trout seasons. The revenue generated from the sale of non-resident fishing licenses means additional funds coming to the DNR.
This past week, I was talking with Mike Shingleton, who is the head of the trout-stocking program. According to Mike, the hatcheries have already released large numbers of trout and some of these fish are real beauties.
West Virginia started the year-round trout fishing idea about 1967. I was in the Navy at that time and did not think much about it. However, when this idea was implemented, the trout hatcheries throughout the state found out they could raise more trout because of the additional room they would have when they released some of the trout early. Today, with our year-round trout season, we now have more than 20,000 miles of trout streams and more than 100 public fishing lakes stocked with trout. All the hatcheries in the state are annually stocking an average of 1.2 million trout, weighing more than 700,000 pounds. This is simply a lot of fish.
We still have several anglers who feel like they are not getting their fair share of the trout. Just about every spring, I hear people say we need to go back to having an established trout season like they have in Maryland, Ohio and Pennsylvania. When we had this setup, the opening day was just a lot of bedlam that sometimes ended with hostilities. I do not want to go back to that, and neither should anyone else in his or her right mind.
Our neighboring Virginia has looked at our setup for several years. They now have adopted our idea of year-round trout fishing. It is also my understanding that other states are studying West Virginia's year-round trout fishing program and considering doing the same.
When I would go to the annual DNR sectional regulations' meetings, there was always someone wanting the DNR to do something about the people following the stock trucks.
If the state passed a law prohibiting this, it would be very difficult, maybe impossible, to enforce. While I have never participated in this activity, I have to agree this is not a very ethical way to fish.
With all of the lakes and streams stocked each spring from January through May, anglers have plenty of opportunities to choose.
The vast majority of trout anglers take great pride in going to their favorite stream or lake and coming home to prepare a dinner with a day's catch.
West Virginia anglers need to be aware that they have excellent trout fishing all year that is not subject to special regulations. Many of the streams in Randolph County are stocked each week in the spring by the DNR.
This provides outstanding fishing opportunities well into the summer months or longer.
The hatchery-raised trout are in confined waters for a short time. When they are placed in a stream or lake, they soon learn to feed on natural foods found in the location. In due time, these fish become "wild" and in turn provide hours of fishing enjoyment.
While I have never been big on fishing, I think when this bad weather clears I will do some trout fishing.