For those of you that don’t know, a lot of the trout rivers here in North Carolina are stocked periodically for harvest or delayed harvest in the hotter summer months. This in turn means there is a huge influx of trout that we can target from rivers throughout the colder months into the summer. With that said, is delayed harvest fishing really fishing? It is a question that we get asked often, especially by new anglers and clients. Also, it is an opinion that is shared over social media with a deliberate disregard to other individuals fishing ability or point of view.
There is an ethical dichotomy in fishing for stocked trout…We want to be in nature, but the fish are put there by humans. It’s a weird thing to think about as we head into the season. Stocked trout behavior and feeding patterns are drastically different, at least at the start, versus wild fish; so, they are easier to catch. But, aren’t we all out on the water to catch fish?!
We, as anglers, need the stocking programs to keep the population up in the rivers we fish due to poaching, increasing water temperatures, and over-fishing. That is a simple, blatant fact that we need to come to terms with. As a guide service, we rely on the stocking programs to put clients on fish as there aren’t sustainable rivers that produce the same opportunities. Again, an obvious fact that we have admitted. We still fish blue line sections throughout the colder months, but we tend to utilize the highly populated stocked sections, especially for new and beginning anglers.
So is it fishing?
Stocked fish are a great way for people to enjoy this activity without hiking miles through brush or focusing their efforts on the plethora of technical wild streams around the state. Fishing delayed harvest streams is fishing by my accord. It might not be as pure as hiking a blue line and hooking into a native brookie, but your feet are still in the water with a fly on the end of your tippet. As anglers, we should accept that there are many ways to enjoy this beautiful activity and others might not share the same opinion.
I will leave you with this…Regardless of the river you fish, take in the moment and treat the fish that live in the water below with care. Some of my most memorable fishing moments have happened on delayed harvest rivers due to the people I was with: laughs shared, teaching a new person how to fish and seeing them light up, sharing a beer while taking off your waders, and many more small wins. You have probably heard it 1000 times before, but “some people fish a lifetime only to find out it wasn’t the fish they were after.”