West Virginia WILD by Frank Jezioro, Director, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources
March is Our Time for Transition
On one of the recent rare days of sun and warm temperatures I was driving along Shaver’s Fork in Randolph County. It sort of brought back memories of when I started trout fishing. There were several fishermen lined up in every likely looking run.
Many will remember the “circus” that was known as “Opening Day of the Trout Season.” Opening in April, it was not uncommon to have patches of snow on the ground and fishing in snow showers. I remember many mornings when we had to break the ice out of the eyes on the rod so the line would shoot through. We would wait with the same anticipation for the opening day of trout season that we waited for squirrel or deer season openers.
I can remember a bunch of us high schools guys driving down to Smoke Hole and camping the day and night before the opening of the season the next morning. One trip in particular sticks in my mind. It was one of the warm openers and a nice time to be out. Four of us drove down, after chipping in a couple of dollars each to buy some 39 cents per gallon gas! We got there, set up our little tent and built a fire. Someone said he could cook and made something for us to eat. Someone else said he would wash the dishes and forks.
No one slept that night and we were all awake long before daylight. The “cook” made breakfast of eggs and bacon. I remember thinking that my fork seemed to have some sort of green tint to it but so what. Before daylight, each of us had a little section of stream “staked out” and was standing there with rods poised to make the first cast at the opening hour of 7 a.m. As always, some individual made a false cast about 10 minutes early. Naturally, those up and down the stream couldn’t see that he really didn’t cast but just acted like he did. That was all it took. Hundreds of lines shot out over the stream and the battle was on. I can remember seeing people fall in and people wading in over the tops of their waders just to get another foot or two closer to the spot they wanted to fish. But all in all, the Opening Day of the Trout Season was quite an event.
Opening Day Gives Way to Year-Round Fishing
But as years wore on we came to realize that there was a better way to do it. We found that you could actually fish year round, weather permitting. And people got to the point where they avoided the circus and crowds of the opening day. It became clearer that people enjoyed going fishing when they had time to go and by spreading it out it, was more enjoyable to fish without competing with thousands of others on opening morning.
With this knowledge, the DNR began to stock from January to May and again in October, depending on water conditions and the amount of trout raised. March will see stocking in full swing and when we have nice days you need to be out on your favorite stream or lake. The great thing about stocking now is that often when the trout are put in the water, the water is high and the fish spread out. The result is that now there are fish all along the stream and not concentrated in only the pools where they might otherwise congregate in low water times.
About That Green Fork…
Before we go, I need to finish the story of that group of high school boys that went camping to Smoke Hole in 1959. If you will remember, early in this story I mentioned the green stuff on my fork and I thought, so what? Well about six hours later I found out “what.” I got so sick that all I wanted to do was craw into the tent. Cold, shivering, stomach cramps, violent vomiting. At one point I was afraid I was going to die, but in a few minutes I was afraid I wouldn’t! But like most stomach problems caused by tomane poisoning, it passed and that afternoon I was out after the trout.
Pick out a nice day and it can be a great time to be in the mountains and on one of our great WV trout waters. Our trout fishing is held in high regard by anglers from many states, including our bordering states. I hear over and over that West Virginia stocks much nicer trout than Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland. Our last stream survey turned up the fact that we have people coming to West Virginia to sample our great trout fishing from nine or 10 different states.
We have streams with varied regulations. We have streams that allow you to keep a limit of trout every day you fish. We have catch-and-release streams for those interested only in the fishing experience. We have delayed harvest areas where you can keep the fish once the water warms to a point where the trout may not survive the winter. Whether you are a fly fisherman, a spinner fisherman, a cheese egg dunker or drown worms, our West Virginia streams offer outstanding trout fishing now through the summer and on into the fall. Good fishing!
Note: WVDNR stocks hatchery-raised trout from January 2 through May 31 and two weeks in October each year. Visit www.wvdnr.gov for fishing regulations, stocking schedules, and daily trout stocking information.
Frank Jezioro, Director, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources