Thursday, March 18, 2010

February snows, March melt hampers trout stocking

Michael A. Sawyers Cumberland Times-News

Cumberland — CUMBERLAND — Although the snows of February and the rain and melt of March have hampered trout stocking in West Virginia, the streams and rivers of the Potomac Highlands have been the least affected.

“East of the Alleghenies we are actually in pretty good shape,” said Mike Shingleton who directs trout stocking for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. “We missed a couple of stockings in the South Branch (of the Potomac) when the snows were bad, but we’ll make those up by adding fish to upcoming stocking runs.”

Shingleton said Tuesday that other parts of West Virginia have had more stocking delays.

“In fact, I was just talking with a manager in the southern part of the state this morning and he still couldn’t get to a stream in Raleigh County because of the high snows.

“We may not get into waters like Cranberry or Williams until the middle of April. Some of our people made a run up there and the snow is too high to drive through on the unplowed Forest Service roads.”

The Blackwater River near Davis has yet to be stocked, according to Shingleton.

“I ran up there recently and the Camp 70 road that leaves Davis and goes along the river had a snow pile of five feet across it. The only tracks were cross country ski tracks. It’s not melting very fast up there.”

Shingleton, stationed in Elkins, said he has never seen such high river flows based solely on snow melt in some streams. He said all missed stocking will be made up.

“If a water was to get 600 pounds of trout, we may not have the space in a truck to double it, but we can put 900 pounds during the next two trips to make it up,” he said.

Shingleton said rivers and streams in the Potomac Highland counties are mostly along main roads. “We could get the trucks to them even during the snows. The hard part was lugging 30 or 40 pounds of trout in a net on foot over the plowed snow to the river.”

Rivers are still high. The U.S. Geological Survey stream gauge at Franklin measured a peak flow in the South Branch of 5,000 cubic feet per second Saturday. Since then, the flow had declined steadily and was at 729 cfs Tuesday morning, still substantially higher than the usual flow of 250 cfs for this time of year.

Shingleton said that trout stocked in high water easily find holding areas near the bottom or along the sides of streams where rocks and other obstacles break up the flow.

Maryland trout stocking has been affected as well.

Tuesday morning, Wills Creek at Cumberland was still flowing at more than 2,000 cfs. The normal flow for this time of year is about 500 cfs.

There is currently a fishing closure in effect on some streams such as Wills and Evitts creeks in Allegany County and Bear Creek in Garrett County. The closure is a time for stocking, with angling resuming at 5:30 a.m. March 27.

Most trout coming from Maryland hatcheries are approximately 1 year old and average slightly over one-half pound. Additionally 4 percent of the trout are larger fish called holdovers that are raised at Albert Powell Hatchery in Washington County.

The majority of the holdover trout are 2 to 3 years old and weigh up to two pounds.

Statewide, about 325,000 trout will be stocked this spring.

Maryland Fisheries Biologist Al Klotz said high water kept the agency from stocking the North Branch of the Potomac River near Kitzmiller.

“And we just couldn’t get a truck down to Barnum (W.Va.) to stock the North Branch there,” he said.

“Another problem is that the lakes that would be stocked now are still frozen,” Klotz said. “We were going to stock Broadford Lake this week, but there isn’t any place to put the fish in the water.”

Not to worry, according to Klotz. All the fish that were scheduled to be stocked will be, just later.

“We’ll either put more trout in the stock truck or make extra trips from Albert Powell,” he said.

Both biologists agree on one thing, that being that the bad weather that kept fish from being stocked also kept people from fishing. Thus, with weather improving, the anglers and the trout will be getting to the rivers at the same time.

Things are improving, according to Klotz.

“I was down on the North Branch at Barnum this morning,” Klotz said Tuesday. “The West Virginia DNR brought in a nice load of trout and stocked them.”

Contact Michael A. Sawyers at

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