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Originally published: 2014-05-30 11:09:24
Last modified: 2014-05-30 11:10:08

Trout stocking reduced

by Anna Oakes

Hungry herons have curbed trout stockings in public waters by 50 percent through August, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission announced Wednesday.

The commission has reduced its trout-stocking rates due to excessive predation by great blue herons at the Bobby N. Setzer State Fish Hatchery in Pisgah National Forest, the WRC said.

The reductions were implemented as a short-term action on May 2 while fisheries biologists determined the extent of the losses and assessed management options.

This action affects 144 water bodies in 25 counties in Western North Carolina.

"Great blue herons have taken a significant toll on all of the fish in the outdoor raceways at the Bobby Setzer Fish Hatchery," said Bob Curry, fisheries chief for the commission, in a statement.

"Staff has placed screen covers on the raceways and installed sonic and light deterrents -- exclusion measures designed to reduce the predation impact from the herons."

Although the hatchery has sufficient numbers of trout growing in the raceways to meet target stocking numbers, the trout are small and will not reach the target 10-inch stocking size until late summer, the WRC said. The reduction in stocking rates allows the commission to stock the available target size trout through the summer.

Kelly McCoy of Todd-based RiverGirl Fishing Co. said she didn't expect the stocking reduction to have much impact on her business, as she rarely leads fly-fishing excursions on hatchery-supported streams.

McCoy prefers to teach fishermen strategies for catching wild trout.

While wild trout can be more easily "spooked" than hatchery trout, she noted, they are also more opportunistic feeders.

"I don't think it will hurt the guide business," McCoy said about the temporary reduction in stocking. "Most people who use a guide know that we know other places to go."

For more information on trout fishing in Western North Carolina, visit http://www.ncwildlife.org/Learning/Species/Fish/Trout/TroutFishing.aspx.