Updated: Mar 3
Releasing trout into DC area waters
If it were not for the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR), I would have to drive at least an hour to fly fish for trout. But the DWR includes Northern Virginia in its stocking program, which means that I can find several viable waters for good fishing within 20 to 30 minutes of my home. Recently, I joined several members of the local chapter of Trout Unlimited to volunteer a morning of stocking in one of these local urban fishing holes.
According to the DWR website, the Department stocks approximately 1 million catchable-size trout in more than 200 waters from October to June. On the day that I participated in the stream stocking, the targeted waters were Holmes and Accotink creeks in Fairfax County, which receive fish over three stocking intervals during the season. I should note that Accotink Creek is in the midst of a restoration and stabilization project that should improve quality and ecological function of the habitat that has suffered from degradation caused by severe bank erosion and over widened channels. The project is scheduled for completion by the Fall stocking.
According to the DWR, there are five cold water facilities that are engaged in trout production, from hatching to raising to stocking sizes. Not long ago I visited the Montebello fish hatchery in Nelson County as a volunteer for a day, which is where the truck stocking our waters originated. Most of the fish will be year-old browns that have been reared at the hatchery since the previous February and they arrive to their destination having not been fed for two days to help them travel better.
There is nothing exotic or scientific about trout stocking in these two urban waters. The stocking vehicle arrives carrying oxygenated tanks of fish in the flatbed of the truck, which are scooped into large plastic buckets. The volunteers then walk the buckets to the deeper pools of the stream and dump the trout into the water. The fish have been traveling for hours and have not been fed in two days, so dumping them in the water becomes quite a wake up call that helps the fish get moving in their new habitat.
Once the word is out that these waters have been stocked, online fishing forums begin buzzing and local anglers converge on Holmes and Accotink in impressive numbers. Both creeks span a reasonable distance, so hunting down the fish is not a foregone conclusion. But having witnessed the size of these trout, the reward is worth the effort.
I thoroughly enjoyed the expedition and urge my blog readers to consider volunteering to help the DWR with the stocking and other programs. It is only a few hours of time and can be an enjoyable and educational outing for both younger and older anglers.
It is worth re-emphasizing that I was an unpaid volunteer for this excursion. I am not being compensated for this blog post.