Every year, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources stocks 725,000 trout in the state’s streams, rivers and lakes. Have you ever wondered how nearly three-quarters of a million trout get from the hatchery to your favorite fishing hole?
The Fish Transportation Section stocks most of the brown and rainbow trout in the state, part of the 4.5 million fish that Kentucky Fish and Wildlife stocks each year. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also helps stock trout in the streams within the Daniel Boone National Forest, including the rugged Red River Gorge.
Sometimes, however, it takes assistance from volunteers to help trout on the final leg of their journey.
The most difficult part of stocking can be getting trout from a transportation truck to a remote stream. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife employees may hike miles of hills, climb over logs and finally slide into streams just to get fish to the water. Quickly getting trout to the water takes work and is vital to the health of the fish, so each spring and fall, as the fish hauling trucks load up, fisheries employees round up volunteers to help with the wilderness trout stockings.
Last October, the Northeastern Fishery District needed help stocking trout in Swift Camp Creek in the Red River Gorge. Fisheries Technician Kevan Lane, a former employee of the Frenchburg Group Home in Menifee County, suggested the boys’ home as a source of volunteers.
It was a win-win situation — volunteers learned about stocking fish and the outdoors, while department employees received some much-needed help. The volunteers did such a good job that they have since helped stock brown trout in the headwaters of East Fork of Indian Creek and again in Swift Camp Creek. They even chipped in and helped run a bait station at the Cave Run Kids’ Fishing Derby in early June.
Boys from the Frenchburg Group Home find themselves in this longterm residential program operated through the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice by having involvements with the law at home, school or in the community.
“The program of treatment is designed to help change the attitudes and behaviors that led to issues, so that the resident may return to the community and become a productive member therein,” said Mitch Adams, superintendent of the Frenchburg Group Home.
On a normal day, the boys attend a local alternative school, do their chores, prepare their own meals and help with community work projects like volunteering at an animal shelter or with Kentucky PRIDE. Teamwork and cooperation are always emphasized. Although helping with a trout stocking adventure is not part of the normal routine, teamwork and cooperation are crucial to helping with the stocking of the fish.
“Some of the boys were hesitant at first, but we have never had a resident who did not want to go,” said Adams. “The boys thoroughly enjoy the sense of adventure and the mystery that these experiences provide.”
For most of the boys, being outside and enjoying nature is foreign to them. Adams explained that most of the residents have never had the opportunity to try adventures such as trout stockings. He said that the majority of the boys come from urban areas or family situations that did not promote outdoor activities.
“The trout stocking does increase the interest the boys have in the outdoors and in fishing,” said Adams. “In fact, fishing is now one of the favorite activities the staff does with the residents.”
Adams noted the trout stocking provided many benefits to the boy. Those included a sense of community service, exposure to the care and consideration of the environment and the role animals play in the environment. Another benefit, Adams added, was the “Tom Sawyer experience of it all.”
So the next time you venture to the Red River Gorge area to fish for trout, consider the road those fish traveled to reach your streams. Simply stocking fish can become an unforgettable and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to someone with little exposure to the outdoors.
Groups or individuals interested in stocking trout can help with this effort, too. Just call Tom Timmerman at (606) 783-8650 or email tom.timmermann@ ky.gov.