By Eric Sitton
Spring is almost upon us. Dogwoods are starting to blossom. The trees are beginning to get their green hue. Cabin fever has everyone itching to get outside. While it’s still a little chilly for it, thousands of people are getting ready to jump in a cold mountain stream. April brings trout season to many North Carolina rivers that are supported by the three, state-owned coldwater hatcheries: Armstrong and Marion hatcheries in McDowell County, and Bobby N. Setzer Hatchery in Transylvania County.
The mountains of Western North Carolina are vital to the survival of cold-water fish like trout. Several different kinds of trout are found in rivers and lakes across America. The most prevalent trout found in this region are rainbow, brown and brook trout, with brook the only one believed to be native to our area. For more than 100 years, stocking programs have introduced other varieties of fish into our waters. The hearty, brown rainbow trout are known for their aggressiveness, and brook trout for the challenge they present to anglers.
Trout stocked by our state agency are not able to reproduce or spawn. They are called triploids. A triploid trout has three sets of chromosomes compared to the wild fish, which has two. The extra set of chromosomes make these stocked fish sterile. Biologists use methods like heat or pressure to make the trout eggs retain the extra set of chromosomes. Most anglers cannot tell the difference in stocked fish and wild fish, though some argue that the triploids are larger. Experienced anglers usually prefer to seek wild fish, as it’s more challenging to catch a fish that has grown up in the wild.
Trout are a delicate fish, very sensitive to water temperatures and oxygen levels. Stress variables in the trout’s environment can decrease their chance of survival. The water temperature for healthy trout needs to stay below 68 degrees. As the temperature climbs in summer time, trout must stop expending energy and will even quit eating. The warm water also causes oxygen levels in the water to fall, further challenging the trout’s survival.
It is not uncommon to meet people from around the globe in a secluded WNC stream. As the weather warms, consider getting outside and trying something new. The peace that comes from being near the water with a delicate fly rod in your hand is astounding.
Spring is here. See you on the river, where it’s very easy to maintain six feet of distance if it’s still required.
Learn more about local fishing at DBbarD.com.