Ohio’s stocked trout program a win-win for everyone

(Tom Cross photo)

They aren’t much, in a way, just little 10- to 13-inch fish. But they are magic for a lot of us everyday anglers in Ohio mostly used to catfish, bluegills, bass, and walleyes.

They are rainbow trout.

Every spring the Ohio Division of Wildlife gives us a seasonal treat, the Buckeye State not being blessed by an abundance of trout streams, by stocking 100,000 rainbows for out-and-take fishing. The plantings take place in 64 impoundments scattered fairly evenly around the state, beginning in early March and continuing into early May. For stocking dates in your region, go to www.wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/fishing/trout-stocking-dates. You also can call 800-WILDLIFE (945-3543).

It is surprising to me how many of my fishing buddies pay attention and find themselves loading up light spinning tackle and heading to a stocked lake for an afternoon pursuing scrappy little rainbows. They will hit most anything from small jigs and plastic wiggle-tails to small spinners and most anything in between. And of course, red worms, maggots, wax worms, and other “bluegill” live baits.

No, they are not screaming, 10-pound steelhead trout from northeast Ohio’s fabled Steelhead Alley. But these little cousins of steelhead are for everyone, not specialists.

Before you go, attend to these details: Get your 2017 fishing license if you have not done so already. It is $19 for an annual in-state ticket, or $11 for a one-day tag, which later can be redeemed for credit toward an annual. Also, remember that the daily catch limit for inland lakes is five trout.

Know, too, that your fishing license money, along with federal Sport Fish Restoration (SFR) funds, bankroll the operation of the Division of Wildlife fish hatcheries that produce these trout, among other fish we enjoy catching. No state tax dollars are used for this activity, misinformation or ignorance to the contrary. This is a user-pay, user-benefit program, something  that state legislators need to keep their sticky fingers away from.

The SFR program is a partnership between federal and state government, industry, anglers, and boaters. When anglers purchase rods, reels, fishing tackle, fish finders and motor boat fuel, they pay an excise tax. The federal government collects these taxes, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service administers and disburses these funds to state fish and wildlife agencies. These funds are used to acquire habitat, produce and stock fish, conduct research and surveys, provide aquatic education to youth and secure and develop boat accesses.

So some of what you spend enjoying those stocker trout helps assure that they will be stocked again next year, and that there will be places in which to stock them.

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